A Delhi man who teaches underprivileged children for free has earned the Internet’s respect and goodwill after his story was published on the popular page ‘Humans of Bombay’. In the post, the man revealed that he grew up working as a child labourer, but loved going to school. His father was a farmer, and he was made to work in the fields since primary school, but that did not deter him from pursuing education. Instead, he would cycle 30 kilometres every day to reach school. “I’d save a portion of what I made to pay my high school fees-I was the first in my family to complete high school,” he said.
The man, who has not been named, said he dreamed of going to college and even got admission, but dropped out when his father fell sick. “When he got better, I had no savings to study again. My dream to be an engineer crashed,” he said.
At the age of 20, he migrated to Delhi, where he eked out a living doing odd jobs – selling watermelons to working at construction sites.
“I took up every menial job that came my way and saved every penny. Overtime, I was able to start a small grocery store,” he said.
This was around the time metro construction sites were cropping up everywhere in Delhi. In 2006, the man went to the banks of Yamuna to see the construction work taking place. That’s when he saw some workers’ children begging and asked them why they were not in school.
“When I spoke to them they told me, ‘Our parents can’t afford to send us to school. That’s why we’re begging.’ My heart sank,” he said.
Remembering his own childhood working as a labourer, the man decided to buy textbooks for the children and started teaching a few of them. Word of his classes soon spread and more children started approaching him. “That motivated me, so I decided to create a makeshift school under the bridge of the station to provide free education,” he said.
The man outfitted his school with basic necessities – a blackboard, a banner declaring “free school”, carpets for the students to sit on. Within a year, he was teaching around 300 slum children.
“With my savings, I bought all my students textbooks and stationery. After I’d give them basic education, I’d help enroll them in government schools,” he said. For him, the biggest reward is seeing his students do well.
“Once, when a ragpicker’s child I taught visited me and said, ‘Sir, I’ve been accepted into engineering college!’ I cried. I told him, ‘You’re fulfilling my dream!'” the man recalled. “Nothing beats the feeling of seeing my former students returning and encouraging kids to choose education! They tell them, ‘If our lives could change through education, yours can too!'”
Since being shared yesterday, the Facebook post has racked up over 12,000 ‘likes’ and more than 500 comments.
“One of the best stories I’ve ever read! Congrats and blessings to you all the way from Trinidad and Tobago,” one Facebook user wrote.
“You are doing an exceptional work! More power to you and all volunteers helping you in this lovely cause!” another wrote.
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