Nishant Saxena (Lucknow)
An extra-curricular activity of RANJEET SINGH YADAV, a sub-inspector of the Uttar Pradesh state police has transformed him into a press and social media star in India’s most populous state (215 million). In his off-duty hours, this Ayodhya-based khaki wale guruji (‘teacher in khaki’) runs an informal school for 65 children under the shade of a peepal tree in the slums of Jaisinghpur ward of the holy city.
Newspeg. One year since Yadav started teaching slum children in his off-duty hours, he has become a media star with the national newspapers, television channels and social media showering this policeman with encomiums for his sustained commitment to educating out-of-school children.
History. Born into a family of poor farmers in Azamgarh village, Yadav and his three siblings experienced severe financial hardships in childhood, but made their way through school and college on scholarships and donations. “Though all of us are now well-settled, we remember the pain of extreme poverty and deprivation, and understand the importance of education support, however small, in a child’s life,” recalls Yadav, who pressed on to acquire a postgrad degree in philosophy from Banaras Hindu University. In 2011, Yadav was appointed a constable in the UP state police and promoted to the position of sub-inspector four years later.
Last November while patrolling Ayodhya’s Naya Ghat on a cold winter morning, Yadav noticed a number of young children begging for alms. Perturbed by their lack of warm clothing, he followed them to their homes in the slums of Jaisinghpur ward, and discovered that none of them were attending government schools because they didn’t have “identity documents”. “I bought notebooks, pencils, erasers, and mats
for 60 children from my savings and started Apna School (‘my school’) on an open ground in Jaisinghpur ward,” recounts Yadav, who teaches children before and after duty hours on working days.
Direct talk. “It’s been one year since I began teaching these children basic reading and writing. Recently, I divided them into three groups according to their learning abilities choosing specific lessons for each group to ensure they upgrade their reading and writing skills. Moreover with many people writing about Apna School in the media and videos going viral on social media, members of the public have begun to visit the school and donate clothes and food to our children. I have also persuaded some local businessmen to donate books, shoes and stationery,” he says.
Future plans. Though this good cop has gone beyond the call of duty to teach slum children, he is worried about the future of Apna School as he could be posted out of Ayodhya any time. “I want to register a foundation with the mission to run Apna School with trained teachers. I have also contacted several NGOs to help our children procure the necessary documents required for their admission into the local government school. Every child has the right to quality education and it is the duty of government to provide it,” says Yadav.
An exemplary model for policemen countrywide!