Free School Under the Bridge

Some of the most beautiful things in life are often found in places where we rarely look. ‘Under the bridge’ school is one such example of collective efforts made by a group of three people from humble backgrounds. Located literally under a bridge, this school was so christened when it first came under media glare a couple of years back. This informal school imparts education to the children of migrant labourers working on the farm lands on the banks of the river Yamuna.

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It was in 2006 that Rajesh Kumar Sharma first began teaching a few children under a nearby tree in this earlier forested area. A native of Aligarh, Sharma migrated to Delhi in 1984 due to lack of job opportunities in his village. Education however was something he was always passionate about. After a number of years in the city and having switched different jobs he finally got a chance to transform his passion into concrete action. He started organising classes under a tree when he first saw the children of migrant labourers whiling away their time instead of attending any schools. With a highly supportive family, who helped him run a general store in Shakarpur area, he was able to devote more time to running this informal school.

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Over the decade, the number of children joining the school has increased steadily. In 2010 they moved under the bridge erected by the Delhi Metro for its purposes to make use of the ‘roof’. This new location ensured that classes could continue without disruption from elements of nature. Run with the help of voluntary support of different individuals, the make shift school now has a set of blackboards, a toilet for girls, and mats for children to sit on. In the school, Sharma focuses not only on providing primary education but also makes sure that the children enter the mainstream by helping them with their admission in government schools as they proceed with their studies.

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In his endeavors, Sharma has received constant help and support from two very dedicated individuals – Laxmi Chandra and Shyam Mathur. What is common to the three of them is their desire of spreading education as far and wide as possible. Both of them are natives of Bihar, and like Sharma migrated to Delhi seeking better job opportunities. The two of them have been associated with different informal schools and non government organizations much before joining the ‘Under the Bridge’ school. Different individuals belonging to all walks of life often volunteer to teach the children in their free time. Today with over 250 students attending the classes the school has come a long way from what it was when it first started. Together, Sharma and his compatriots have managed to convince a number of parents to send their children to school instead of putting them to work. What however remains the most admirable aspect of this school is the steely resolve with which so many children remain fully absorbed in their studies in spite of the rumbling metro that runs over their heads every five minutes.

Where: Close to Yamuna Bank Metro Station, Between Pillar no. 5 and 6, Yamuna Depot, East Delhi.

Nearest Metro Station: Yamuna Bank Station (5 minute rickshaw ride from there).

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