- Dr. G.L.Mahajan
Chandigarh: A school set up in open street corner in Jallandhar provides regular education to children of daily wagers and labourers living in near by slum areas. Their families reside in small hamlets/shanties, cut off from the city’s towering infrastructure.
A group of volunteer of Namdhari sect led by Thakur Dalip Singh ji spiritual head has been teaching the children for past several years bringing quality education and reading within their reach and is currently also providing them coaching as schools remain closed due to #COVID19.
This initiative started as a volunteer-driven project in the year 2015 that brought together Namdhari Volunteers from across the Ludhiana city in 2015, to use the time at hand to educate the slum children
“Each volunteer dedicatedly taught one to four children at a time in their shanties, giving them the much needed individual support and guidance, for at least three days in a week
Later a center of non-formal education was opened in the same year 2015 in Ludhiana where a group of ‘working’ kids employed at scrapyards, chai shops, shoe polish stalls, and even as domestic help or ragpickers were taught the basics of Languages near their makeshift tents and shanties, most of which lie adjacent to the construction sites.
We brought them together and sat them in a class,” recalls Thakur Dalip Singh ji spiritual head of the Namdhari sect of Sikhs
The Students sit on rugs braving the extreme weather and eagerly attend the school he said.
The classes were held in open street corners in the morning hours from Monday to Saturday. because vagrant kids and those engaged in temporary odd jobs to support their families couldn’t afford to lose out on their ‘jobs’.
These center of non-formal education were opened in other cities like amritsar, patiala,kalanur, Jalandhar in the coming yerars where a sizeable Namdhari population resides . The Namdhari Volunteers mostly women have opened multiple branches where alongside extra classes for reading, vernacular languages, mental health program has been introduced for the students, most of whom grow up witnessing domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and other traumatic incidents at their homes, which often affect their mental health severely.
By 2021, The Namdhari Sect opened a couple of centres across the slum settlements of metro cities in Punjab educating over 2500 (Two Thousand and Five Hundred only ) needy children between 5 to 12 years of age. The Namdhari Sect volunteers also launched the pre-primary section at some locations, where little girls and boys below 5 years of age were prepped for securing admission in govt schools. So far around 1500 such students have been enrolled in govt schools in Punjab.
The Namdhari sect volunteers have also hired vacant rooms in the morning by pooling their resources and donations near the slum areas to teach mostly first-generation learners in their families.
Namdhari Sect volunteers have traveled a long way in the last six years Starting with just 25 children in 2015 and now teaching over 2500 students, says Thakur Dalip Singh ji spiritual head of the Namdhari sect of Sikhs .
The Namdhari Sect Volunteers have also started community Library where underpriviliged childrens can get books for home studies and can return it after few days . The organizations has also started campaign where people can donate books. Through its book donation drives, the Namdhari sect manages to collect around 500 books annually which are given to the students for reading in their homes
(Dr has a Phd in social sciences and lives in New Delhi)