Twenty-six-year-old Bimla Kumari is shaken after the Delhi floods submerged her makeshift school in the Yamuna Khadar area of Mayur Vihar. She is at a loss for words to explain how she will restart the school which lies below the blue line metro’s pillar No. 56. “I run this school on the farming land that my parents have taken on lease. But due to the floods, my parents have returned to our hometown in Badaun (Uttar Pradesh),” she says.
“Earlier, the authorities had destroyed their crop in the name of encroachment and now the flood has destroyed it so they can’t bear the loss and have left the [leased] land. Now, I am not sure if the owner of the farmland will allow me to continue my school. I haven’t talked to him regarding this as yet but am not sure he will permit since my parents have already left. It’s a worrying situation,” says Bimla, who holds a masters’ degree in Political Science and has been running this school for the last six years.
At the moment, she is living with her husband in inhuman conditions along with thousands of other homeless victims. A polythene tent acts as their current address.
“My family’s financial situation was not very good, so I started this school during my first year of graduation with just two children. Now, we have over 150 students enrolled from class 1-12. I was running this school along with my husband and two paid teachers. We focussed fully on this school and also charged only a little. If someone could not pay or paid only a bit, we gave them some relaxation. Many students from my school have found employment after their studies,” adds Bimla.
She is planning to enrol in B. Ed. course and run the school simultaneously.
“We had made new benches for students but they have been spoiled in the flood. We didn’t expect loss of such magnitude. We had put one bench on top of the other and tied them. But few survived the damage. We had also set up a library and a wooden almirah in the school but they are completely destroyed. We lost around Rs 50,000 in school. Now, I will approach an NGO to help me restart. Even without any help, we will have to start again all by ourselves. The students may have to sit on the mat. Many students’ textbooks have been submerged in the flood. The school teachers are helping. The principals of the regular schools, where these children study, also visited the area,” she says.
They have to resume the school because parents have requested them to teach their kids again failing which they will forget their lessons.
The students are unable to study properly without notebooks, which have been drenched in water. Some wet books, left to dry in the sunlight, can be seen on charpoys. Rajni is a student from one of the early batches of Bimla’s coaching school. She has completed 12th now and is looking at higher studies.
“I got a lot of help from this school. The education is not good in government schools. We can cover it up with the tuition here,” she told Patriot.
Arun is studying in the centre for the last one year. A class 9 student of Shaheed Captain Hanifuddin Bal Vidyalaya (Pocket-4, Mayur Vihar-1), he said that some books have been destroyed due to the flood, leaving his studies affected.
The ‘Vanphool Pathshala’, run by two brothers in the Yamuna Khadar near Mayur Vihar-1 metro station is also submerged by the flood. Naresh runs this school, which has earned international attention, with brother Vikram and sister Urmila. The three are now helping distribute essential items, such as food and medicines to the families of the victims. “There were around 150 students in the school. The school has been severely damaged. But the tables are safe because the parents of the students carried them before the flood and are now using them in their camps. We haven’t seen this kind of flood in a decade. Last year also, floods hit us but the water couldn’t surge beyond a limit and receded in just one or two days,” Naresh told Patriot.
“Currently, we are doing necessary relief work as priority. The students have lost their entire study material, so we are arranging stationary for them. We have approached the civil society people. A journalist contacted us to help. Some organisations have also started teaching here in the camp. When the flood recedes, we will again start teaching as before.”
In a tent, Hasina was busy poring over the school-work sent by her school-teacher. Her books were drying on a charpoy. She is worried about her studies but is not completely disheartened. She lives in the Khadar with parents.
The 12th standard student of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Mayur Vihar, said, “My books have been spoiled. I am unable to concentrate on my studies also because of the din [in the camp]. But we should never give up.”
Abhilash Shrivastava shifted the classes of his ‘Mission Pathshala’ school from near Shiv Mandir, Yamuna Khadar, to the shelter house beneath the Mayur Vihar-1 flyover.
He has been running this school along with a playschool near Kukreja Hospital in Mayur Vihar-1 without charge for slum and Khadar children since 2016.
The Khadar school has been submerged in the flood but classes and studies have resumed in the camp under the flyover.
Shrivastava told Patriot, “In the Khadar school, 12 teachers teach around 70 students. We focus mainly on child education and women empowerment. A sewing centre was also being run inside the school, there was a solar panel and a hut but everything was destroyed in the flood. We also helped in making documents such as children’s Aadhar card. After the flood, we first rescued people and installed 50 relief tents near the new bridge. For the last 11 days, we have been teaching children here from 11 am-3 pm. We will set it up again after the flood.” Shrivastava’s school is not in traditional mould. Here, they focus on personality development and convince students on why they should go to school. It strengthens the base.
Dev Pal also runs two makeshift schools in Yamuna Khadar and couldn’t save them in the flood.
Despite his schools being destroyed, he is continuing to help the society.
When Patriot visited the area, he was busy distributing essential items to flood victims near the DND flyway.
Dev Pal told Patriot, “We have 250 students in the school which is till 10th. One centre started after the pandemic in 2020 on the Pontoon Bridge Road, Yamuna, to help students get access to gadgets for online classes. The other has been running since 2016 and was registered in 2018.”
“Our structure, library, battery, stationary, records, registers have all been damaged and some chairs are missing in the flood. Now, we are focusing on children’s stationery and textbooks. We run this with the help of Manav Vikas Foundation. We also help the students get admission in colleges and will try to restart it again,” he concluded.