He visualised a dream a decade ago and sowed the seeds. Now, they are showing results. Kamlesh Parmar’s unstinting efforts have brought smiles on faces of scores of children in Ahmedabad.
They are living their dreams, thanks to Parmar, who owns a fabrication unit. Near his unit, there is a primary and a secondary school, run by the Municipal School Board of the Corporation, and scores of children study there.
It happened by accident about 10 years ago. He was standing at a crossroads waiting for his son to pick him. At that time, he interacted with a few children returning from the school.
“I asked them a few basic questions as per their age and class and I realised that they did not know or learn anything,’’ said Parmar. He repeated this exercise with a few more students and, to his horror, the results were the same.
“Initially, I was surprised. But later I decided that I should do something if these children had to become educated in the real sense. This marked the beginning of classes on a footpath,” recalled Parmar.
The initiative commenced with about 15 students and in a decade the strength has seen 10-fold increase. Nearly 150 students study in seven groups and 10 teachers assist him.
The children, coming to study in this footpath school, seems to be unaffected by all the noise produced by moving vehicles and honking of horns. Their daily schedule begins at 7.30 pm and goes on for three hours. When their parents, who are daily labourers, go to work, these children attend nearby municipal schools. At dusk, they promptly turn up at the evening school run by Parmar, which enables them to understand what has been taught in their schools.
Seven-year-old Yash Parmar, who is in second standard, says that attention
given to him in the evening session has enabled him to understand subjects like mathematics and take interest in Gujarati.
“Studying Gujarati in the classroom is like learning a lesson. Here, the same is told in the form of a story,” adds Yash.
And it is not just the experience of Yash. There are others like Nilesh Bedekar, who is in the ninth standard. “It is an important year for me. I can’t afford private tuitions as my parents are daily wage earners. This evening class has helped me to develop interest in studies and encouraged me to dream of a career,’’ says Bedekar.
And he is not wrong when he says he wants to pursue his dream, as it was just a few months ago that four students from Parmar’s guidance secured admission to the government engineering college in the mechanical stream. A proud Parmar also boasts of a student who was able to get admission in the prestigious Petroleum University of the state government. “We managed to get donors for the fees and the boy is now studying in petroleum engineering,” said Parmar.
Apart from the regular studies and tuitions, the students are also given nutritious food after their classes and that is an added attraction for all of them.
“We do get a lot of donations in kind and we never fall short of things,” said Parmar. A majority of them come from very poor background and it is not possible for many parents to feed them with nutritious food, which is necessary for children of their age.
Those who teach at this school are beneficiaries of Paramar’s project at some point of time in their life. Now, they have settled down in life and want to repay the debt in kind.
“We want to build careers of these children the way Kamleshbhai enabled us to build ours,’’ says Jignesh Parmar, one of the teachers who works with a private company in Ahmedabad. “Thanks to the efforts of Kamleshbhai and other donors, the school is open 365 days unless the children want an off on festive days,” adds Jignesh.
He says: “It is a satisfaction for all of us. The way we have been guided to dream of a future we want the next generation to come up in life .”
Another teacher Jyoti Vaghela ensures that she is there every evening to cater to the needs of the children. “I owe it to this footpath school. I will soon be a graduate and think of a career ahead,” says Jyoti. The children attending these classes are bright and they just lack opportunities others have.
For Kamlesh, who has relentlessly pursued more and more children to join this informal school, it is a sense of satisfaction and he said proudly that he has not taken a day off in the last one decade. “I can take a day off from my work in fabrication unit but not a day off in this mission,” added Kamlesh.
He was recently recognised by an organisation for his relentless effort and even a nationalised bank has approached him to offer help.
“These steps are encouraging. They will definitely enable me to encourage more children to come and spend their time here,” said Parmar.