Sixteen-year-old Akshada Sandeep Datir resides with her family of five in a small room in Bhaskar Nagar area of Kalwa.
Despite poor financial conditions, she has aced her Class 10 with 90%. However, this was not enough for Akshada as she has seen many children in her slums spending time in bad company instead of studying. Along with eight of her school friends who are equally good in studies, Akshada, who aspires to be an airhostess, took up the task of gathering these children and imparting basic education and moral principles in them.
These girls used to study together. They have completed their schooling while also helping their family to earn a living. They did odd jobs like embroidering, dying clothes, tailoring, pottery and making rakhis. The initiative to help children began while watching children in their area doing nothing and getting into bad habits since most of them didn’t go to school for over two years.
The initiative that began with these girls is now joined by 60 other girls from Classes 7 to 12. They help students from kindergarten to Class 5 in the slums of Kalwa. They do it for free and take the initiative to find students who need help in bringing their interest back in education.
An NGO, Pratham, which had a programme of summer camps in the slums, started helping the girls after knowing their initiative.
Akshada said, “My parents have always motivated me to work hard in pursuing my dream of becoming an airhostess. But, during the lockdown, my friends and I saw many parents working extra to earn for their families. As they were unable to pay attention, most of the children got involved with elders from the slums and took to bad habits. Their language also was not suitable for a child. We completed our schooling while helping our family in earning and also wanted the children to be responsible too.”
Her school friend, Tejaswini Bane, who scored 84% in Class 10, said, “We wanted to teach these children to improve their studies and make up for the two years’ syllabus that they had missed. We were clueless as to how to teach them as the students did not stay with us. At that time, NGO Pratham, which learnt about the initiative, approached us and sent study materials like videos or games with which we could teach the students. It became easy for us and the students as they enjoyed the teaching methods. Earlier, we started thrice a week but children started enjoying our classes and we are now teaching them every day.”
The NGO that works in the core areas of Kalwa were looking for volunteers to take some summer camps for the children. Hemlata Sanane, Thane programme co-ordinator of Pratham, said, “We came across these girls who were enthusiastic and dedicated in their job of teaching the children. We decided to look for more such girls and our team helps them in resolving their queries and providing them with some teaching aids. Despite whatever efforts we do, all the credit should go to these girls who are selflessly taking classes for the neighbouring children. Our main aim was to meet the gap of two years of education that these children lost and with the help of the girls, we are achieving it.”
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