For Those Children Left Behind: 25-Yr-Old Teaches Students in Delhi Slum Who Can’t Access Online Classes

Social Commentary

For Those Children Left Behind: 25-Yr-Old Teaches Students in Delhi Slum Who Can’t Access Online Classes

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the education system to shift to online classes, but Digital India continues to be a far-fetched dream for the underprivileged and poor. For many such students in Delhi, 25-year-old Satyendra Pal is a beacon of hope.

Armed with a whiteboard and markers, the maths graduate has been conducting classes under a partially built Delhi Metro flyover over the past months for students who are missing out due to online learning.

With strict social distancing norms in place and nearly half a dozen students wearing face masks, Pal’s open-air classroom is the only alternative for those who don’t have access to either smartphones, laptops, or the internet. Students do not have to pay for classes. “I take whatever they give,” he told Reuters.

Pal’s students live in slums where electricity is erratic. The children said that schools have started online classes but poor connectivity is a hindrance.

The lockdown isn’t the first time Pal, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, has been providing nearly-free education to poor students. In 2015, he started teaching a handful of students under a tree near the slum, and named this small school Panchsheel Shikshan Sansthan.

He then went on to set-up a classroom inside a hut with the help of the slum-dwellers. Since then, his student count has increased to almost 300. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, Pal shut his classes in March and only began to teach again on the request of desperate and helpless parents.

With a limited number of students, Pal resumed his classes in July and teaches to batches of six to seven students all seven days of the week. And his efforts are being lauded by everyone who comes across his story.

While the government has pushed for classes to go digital, according to a 2017-2018 report only 23.8 per cent of households in India have access to the internet. Besides adapting to digitalisation amid the uncertain future of traditional approach to education, providing internet facilities to a large population continues to remain a staggering challenge for our country.

Even so, it’s teachers like Pal who ensure that no child is left behind.