Education is important for children from the slums, as it helps them live a better life and stand on their own feet. A female educationist from India understands this very well. Associate law professor Dr Lalita Sharma has been an educationist for almost 20 years.
This is the third article in a series of articles on my blog that show the power of a woman.
How it all started
When Sharma came to a new neighbourhood in Indore, in 2009, she witnessed a group of young teenagers and children from a nearby slum gambling, fighting on the street, and lingering aimlessly. It hurt her as an educator for 18 years to see students tamper with their future.
She discovered that most slum children were alone while their parents worked all day. So she tutored four to five children after she finished her work. She set aside an hour or two each day to teach them the school curriculum and quickly found herself with 20 slum children.
Sharma now runs an NGO called ‘Abha Kunj.’ But, when she first contacted the parents, many of them said education would not change their fate. Some even said that their daughters were destined to marry. Along with assuaging her parents’ fears, she needed to reassure herself that she was in it for the long haul.
Sharma stated that the youngsters experience emotional trauma or challenges at home as a result of poverty, quarrelling parents, bullying by senior classmates, a lack of empathy from school teachers, and other factors. They require someone who can be there for them every day or show them the potential of a bright future. I needed to be emotionally available as well as physically present.
She began teaching the children in her living room and then moved to the porch as the number of students increased.
The first month was difficult because she had to educate them how to maintain oneself clean by clipping their nails, dressing appropriately, and brushing their hair without seeming offensive or elite.
The kids eventually developed the practise of meticulously oiling their hair.
Sharma also enlisted the help of her mother-in-law and a couple of her college students.
College students viewed this as an internship opportunity and began counselling the children on career options.
As word spread about Abha Kunj, she received volunteer requests from working professionals, housewives, and retired personnel. The NGO divided students into batches based on their school schedules, and allocated volunteers to them appropriately.
Sharma educates hundreds of poor students
Through Abha Kunj, Sharma educates nearly 500 poor children every year. Over the years, she has amassed an army of 200 volunteers who have joined her in this cause. Sharma’s interventions have had a tremendous impact. Her pupils have overcome emotional, social, and developmental challenges to becoming nurses, marketing executives, engineers, and other professionals.
Sharma has received numerous recognitions and honours for her unselfish work, including the New York-based Global Women’s Award in the ‘influencer category’ in 2018.
In 2016, she was also honored by the Ministry of Women and Child Development as one of India’s “100 Most Influential Women.”
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If you want help change a life for the better, you may donate something to Abha Kunj