Malout: From a lifetime of wading through household, commercial and industrial trash and using bare hands, which many of us would balk at just by witnessing, to collect chemical poison, medical waste, plastic and almost everything, but the kitchen sink, just at the break of dawn and before school-going children begin their everyday routine, many rag-pickers of Malout, a small town in Muktsar district, who also ‘deserve’ the Right to Education according to our Constitution, work the graveyard shift each day.
These little children get down to business only to find adequate trash, wandering from street to street in order to earn a livelihood for themselves along with their families. The ‘already written fate’ of these children only restricts them from being ‘model citizens’ of society one day, as most of them grow up to become criminals or end up battling for survival till their last breath. Like every could has a silver lining, this fate has been changed in the past with little, but effective, efforts of the people who dream of making this world an ‘equal’ world for all.
Following the same path, Manav Mangal society of the town, with the help of people high on the hog, has opened a school for rag-pickers in a dharamshala at Dhakka Basti, an impoverished of the town. This project, which was initiated by Prof Y P Makkar, a veteran professor of science, has now become a reality with the support of a group of social activists, politicians and government school teachers, who have contributed their bit as a tribute to the veteran. Manav Mangal School is a ray of the hope for as many as 35 rag-pickers, who are taking evening classes by two teachers, namely Sukhwinder and Deepanshu, who are being paid by the organisation as well as one volunteer.
However, the dharamshala where the school is being run is in sorry state and needs urgent upkeep and restoration and it lacks even the basic of facilities. A school teacher by profession and finance secretary of the organisation Harvinder Singh Sicha believes that the motive for which the school is being run will be achieved one day. “We want to spread the light of education to each and every house, the only way to change the fate of these rag-pickers is to educate them, and we have sown the first seed,” said Sicha.
Holding the horses, the team has collected Rs 78,000 for the restoration and maintanence of the school and is hopeful to get support from the state government as many senior leaders of the town are lending a helping hand in the project. “We are thankful to Edwardganj Welfare Society for their support in the project and look forward to teach these rag-pickers, only to make them stand with their heads high in society and improve their living standards which I believe only education can do,” said a teacher of government school Sudharshan Jagga.
Deepanshu Monga, a student himself and one of the teachers in this school has so many tales to tell about these children. He gets excited talking about them and also shows concern over the ill practices which still continue to be the part of this slum. “Most of the students who come to learn have started picking up although initially it was a difficult task for us to bring them to the school, but my concern is something different, girls are forcibly married by their parents as they reach 16 which results in leaving studies in between.” School for rag-pickers to make them cut mustard.
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