The second day in India…still confused after getting in this different universe but curious to discover its mysteries. I started the day with an Indian breakfast on the street, I got in love with paneer paratha and with the craziness from Delhi’s streets. India has its own charm in a way that either you become irremediable in love or you start to hate it and wish to leave it as soon as possible. Maybe it’s too soon to say it… but I like more and more the ways in which India is challenging me and offering me answers without asking a question.
In this way, I found the Free School Under the Bridge, a wonderful experience to have especially when you don’t expect it. I’m sure the roads in India could drive you to places that you’ll never expect but arriving under that bridge was a lesson of perseverance and determination in the face of poverty. Rajesh Kumar Sharma, the founder of this school came with this idea in 2006, being motivated to provide access to education to children from the slums. I was walking in the middle of nowhere when suddenly I became a witness to another type of school. I was thinking that is a random playground at the beginning until I saw the students and the supervisors there. Not knowing what is this place, I stepped into their school without being invited and I was more than welcomed.
The first thing that I noticed was the joy on the kid’s faces coming to this school, a group of girls were arriving at that moment running to have their place under the bridge. Without a teacher to invite them to study, they were starting to play some board games together. I didn’t want to invade their space but when they noticed that I’m watching them, they came to me and presented themselves. I’ve tried hard to pronounce correctly their names and the girls were really happy to teach me. When I couldn’t pronounce one name for the third try, one of them kindly told me: “it’s ok, I know it’s hard”.
The school is run in two shifts, in the morning for boys and in the afternoon for girls, students aged between four and 14 years, enrolled in the governmental school nearby. Seven teachers are volunteering to teach these children in their free time, a proof of generosity and willingness to overcome the challenges of poverty. Free school under the bridge doesn’t have a permanent building, the bridge next to Yamuna Metro station provides its shelter and the wall next to it is used as a blackboard.
When I asked how we could help this initiative, the founder told me firmly that there is no money involved. For my second visit, I plan to bring some teaching materials and games for the children because some of them are most of the days there and they love to play by themselves. After this random visit, I know that the children will be happy to meet new people and for the next time I want to do something more meaningful. The free school under the bridge is a place where children are feeling safe in the same environment that gives them challenges.