Rajesh Kumar Sharma

Every 3 minutes a speeding Metrorail kicks up a din, but the children seated below the elevated tracks near the Yamuna Bank Metro Station in New Delhi carry on with their studies unperturbed. On the faces of the children one could see a steely resolve and determination to focus on their learning and not be distracted by the surroundings.

In fact, this informal ‘Under the Bridge School’ situated below the railway flyover is all about defying conventions.

Located on railway land, the school has no building. Children sit on the ground on mats. There are few plastic and wooden chairs for the teachers, and a couple of steel trunk boxes for keeping the attendance registers and school records. Coats of black paint on the boundary wall make up the black boards.

The school’s founder, Rajesh Kumar Sharma, is a college dropout who owns a general store at Shakarpur, about 5 km from here.

Around 200 kids from nearby slums attend his school that functions from 9 am to 2 pm in two batches. The children are taught to read, write, and basics of English, Hindi, science, mathematics, history, and geography.

Though the school does not follow any fixed syllabus and has no government approval, it achieves the purpose of a school, imparting education and building the confidence level in the children.

Sharma started the school back in 2007 after seeing the condition of the children in the area.

He had first visited the place to catch a glimpse of the ongoing metro railway work, when the sight of the children who were not going to school and loitering around changed the course of his life.

Speaking to the parents of the children, who were mostly farmers and daily wagers, he realized they were poor and there was no school in the vicinity they could send their children to. He started the classes after the parents requested him to teach their children.

“The area used to be covered with undergrowth and bushes. I found a place to teach and started with just two children. In three months it took the shape of a full grown school.

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