Education for children of indigenous migrant labours and beggars in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh State)

When I was an undergraduate engineering student, I started weekly education centres for very low-income family children, beggar-children and children of indigenous migrant labours. I started with one centre and gradually formed ten centres.

I worked with these education centres alone. These homeless families were living in temporary slums or new construction colonies. For motivating them to send their children to the education centres, I never told them that their children would have a better life. I did not use any trick to motivate them for sending their children. I never gave money or toffee or chocolate or anything else to bribe children for coming to the education centres. I honestly told them that nothing would change except their children will know some basic reading writing skills and elementary mathematics.

Daily after finishing the engineering classes, I used to go to one or more of these education centres. I scheduled one or two education centres per day, with this arrangement I was able to cover all education centres in a week. Daily I needed to walk three to six kilometres to reach these education centres. Daily I needed to go to call each child to come. For these education centres, I only needed a white blackboard, a marker and myself. These centres had male and female children from the age of two years to eighteen years.

Education centres for beggar-children

One of my friends who was an officer in a government department provided the car park at his residence for the education centre for beggar-children. These children were not going to any school; I should say they never went to a school. They were homeless, living at the edge of an open sewage-channel, the main sewage channel of the city of a population of around ten million people. The terrible odours of this drainage could be felt from a few hundred metres both-sides. I had to go to the edge of that sewage channel to collect beggar-children, sometimes the sewage was touching the feet. First few days I thought I should shut this centre, but I thought these children are humans like me, and they live, cook and eat food there without shelter even in rainy seasons. Many times, it was hard to find them because they were busy with begging.

Although they were beggars, they offered me food whatever they had. I had meals a few times with them, cooked at the edge of sewage open-channel with not-drinking water. They were humans, if they were eating that food, I could have also eaten, and I ate their food. They trusted me, I trusted them, they accepted me, and I accepted them. I did not have any trace of hidden racism; I did not have an ego, I did not have superiority racism. They were insecure; I was insecure. I never became sick working with those children, eating their food at the edge of sewage channel.