India

Ahmedabad: At this police outpost, pencils, colour books and the laughter of street children

Ahmedabad: At this police outpost, pencils, colour books and the laughter of street children

At the busy intersection of Pakwan Crossroad in Ahmedabad, 24-year-old constable Nitin Rathod is managing the heavy traffic, eagerly awaiting the end of his shift. Fifteen minutes later, his colleague replaces him so that Rathod can perform his next role, which is of a teacher.

Rathod has been teaching mathematics and Gujarati language to 20-22 street children at a makeshift school at the traffic police outpost on Pakwan Crossroad for the past one-and-a-half years. At this police outpost, one is more likely to find pencils, colour books and toys than batons, police uniforms or challan machines. The school is located at the back of the outpost building, where benches and a white board have been set up for the children.

Rathod, who holds Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education degrees, says he loves teaching the basics of science and mathematics to children at the “police paathshala”. “I always wanted to become a teacher but somehow I ended up a policeman. With the ‘Education on Road’ initiative, I got an opportunity to do my duty as a teacher with these children” he said.

The Education on Road campaign was started one-and-a-half years ago by the then Ahmedabad City Joint Commissioner of Police AK Singh and Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Neerja Gotru Rao.

The initiative gets its logistical backing from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan of the Central Government.

Rathod is a proud man today, as after one-and-a-half years of hard work, 17 of his devoted students are finally going to join mainstream schooling.

Officials of the police paathshala said all 17 children were once street urchins. Some were forced to beg for a living while others were child labourers.

“These children will be joining the Thaltej Government Primary school in the next one month, at various class levels. We have groomed them a lot so that they can join mainstream education,” Coordinator of the Education on Road campaign Rinkal Patel said.

Patel explained the challenges that the police faced in the initial months while teaching the children. “Many of them were addicted to tobacco. They used to live a destitute life near the Gurudwara in Thaltej. Slowly, we convinced their parents to send them to our school. We even arranged for free transportation everyday and got their afternoon meal from a nearby government school,” Patel said. “Over the past year, they have picked up pace when it comes to grasping things and we are confident that they are ready for mainstream schooling now.”

Patel cited the example of 10-year-old Roshani, an orphaned child from Surendranagar, who used to live a destitute life with her cousins almost a year ago. “Today, Roshani will be joining class 5 at the government school. At an annual day function, we also discovered that she is an amazing dancer,” Patel said.

A regular day in this school begins at 10 am. All 22 children attend classes on Gujarati, Hindi, social science and mathematics, and the constables take turns to teach them. There are two male constables, one female constable and one teacher appointed under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan scheme to teach the kids.

“As the 17 kids will join mainstream schooling, we hope we can bring another two dozen kids into our school who are in dire need of help, so that they can also become a part of the mainstream,” Patel said.