A retired engineer’s desire to educate his domestic help’s son has three decades later materialised into a school, which today teaches over 400 children with the help of professional volunteers.
Seventy-year-old J D Khurana and his wife, who founded the government approved NGO, ‘Guru Nanak Sewa Sansthan’ say that it pained them to see young children work as domestic servants and rag-pickers at an age when they should be going to schools and thus took upon themselves the responsibility of building them a bright future.
“During my days of service, my wife and I would feel uncomfortable seeing small children help as maids or rag-pickers rather than going to school. We both started keeping a part of our salary separately to help the needy,” says Khurana.
While it began with individual stories of the couple funding the education, first of their driver’s son and then of a blind girl student of the college where his wife was a principal, it soon took shape of a school called ‘Nai Kiran Universal School.’
The school, which initially started with four children in the parking area of Ardee City has now grown into a full-fledged institution, where classes from pre-nursery to the ninth grade are held in makeshift tents.
“We provide books, textbooks, mid-day meals and a winter and summer uniform free of cost. We instruct our students in English and follow the Delhi Public School curriculum. There is also a weekly visit by a physician and the children have been immunised,” says the retired engineer.
According to Hardeep Malhotra, a retired principal and a key member of the school, the tents are dismantled regularly after school due to previous incidents of destruction when a concrete room that was used for teaching was raised to the ground after the land was sold.
“We had constructed a concrete room with electricity, drinking water and a toilet. Later the land was sold to the Haryana Urban Development Authority and the room was demolished without notifying us,” says Malhotra.
The school was rebuilt by the then district commissioner who said that the demolition was “done mistakenly.” However, after the commissioner’s term ended, the room’s walls came crashing down yet again under the new authorities. Since then it has been running under tents.
“One of the government officials asked us to participate in the auction for the land. That is indeed sad to hear when you are doing some selfless work,” he says.
Malhotra says that they have written to various dignitaries including the chief minister and the education minister to get a space for the school.
“We also provided compulsory free computer education from nursery onwards but due to lack of proper space it has been discontinued for more than a year,” says Khurana.
Braving the harsh weather conditions, children are always present in full strength in their school. They start their day with a couple of exercises and prayer.
“If you talk to them you’ll know how bright they are. Some of them are extremely good in art. Others are good with numbers. But all are so dedicated and have a hunger to learn something new every day,” says Dr Renu Singh, a dentist by profession but who volunteers to teach the children every morning.
Students of Nai Kiran have been recognised as ‘MENSA Scholars’ by MENSA an international organisation that has a system to check the IQ of students.
Around 200 students of the school have cleared the tests of some reputed schools of Gurgaon and are continuing their education after class 9 from these schools.
“40 of our students have got admission in Delhi Public School run Shiksha Kendra, 55 of them are in Shalom Hills International School, 6 in Atul Memorial School and some others in other renowned schools,” says Khurana.
Sharing a story about one of his students, Malhotra says in 1977 he saw a girl begging at the Jammu railway station and convinced her parents to let her study and promised to take care of her meals.
“That girl was so bright that later she became one of the toppers of class 10 board exams. She then went to complete her studies in England through sheer hard work and dedication. After that she came back to India, purchased a land and gave her parents a roof to stay it. The girl is now married and a mother of two,” he says.
Urging others to join similar causes, Malhotra says if everyone does the same, India can eradicate poverty because education is key to most of the social evils.
While International Federation of Social Workers is celebrating March 15 as World Social Work Day, an effort by Guru Nanak Sewa Sansthan promotes dignity of individual through right to education.