Satisfaction does not have to come from a fancy job in posh surroundings. It can come from helping underprivileged children find their feet in the education system
Until mid-2017, Sneha Nagpal, 24, was working full time in the hospitality sector as a front desk employee. Morning and evening shifts were hard sometimes, though she managed her time well. Until one day, due to an emergency in the family, she had to quit her job.
After taking a small break, Nagpal decided to devote all her time to social work — teaching underprivileged children. At her organisation named Kripa in Gurugram, she is currently teaching children aged between five to 10. These children will be enrolled in 2020 into a government school.
The idea is to have a group of children coming in batches, learning for a year, and once the yearly cycle is completed, they will be enrolled into a government school.
Nagpal is currently planning to get computers for these kids, so that they’re not left behind in the race to learn technology.
In an interview with Patriot, Nagpal tell us all about her journey from the hospitality sector to doing social work through Kripa — her organisation, to solely teach these kids as they try to adjust in their formative years, and the troubles she faces in giving these children a path to education. Excerpts:
What were you doing before this?
Till mid-2017, I was working in the hospitality sector. It was a good experience. You know, meeting new people, exploring new things and learning a lot. It’s a fine opportunity to work in the hotels.
Some medical emergency came up in my family and I was not granted the leave by my employer and I told them I’m the only person available at the moment and had to accompany my father. We had different shifts at the workplace. From morning to afternoon to night shifts. I worked with The Westin and Crowne Plaza.
My father was running this NGO before me but he had to retire, so I took over. And I’m the only one to manage the operations and teach these children.
What is it like to be a teacher?
In the beginning it was a bit difficult for me but later on I gradually learned. When I started to teach them, they didn’t know English language, the words. They could read, didn’t know pronunciations, didn’t know what alphabets are.
So I had to teach each alphabet one by one, and tell the meaning simultaneously, and how is it used.
Gradually, I started liking the job. It was fun with kids and plus the kids are very interested in learning. I have to prepare one day in advance, you know…read textbooks and then teach these children. They continue to learn new things every day, so it’s nice to see that growth.
What is the process like for these children when they come to Kripa?
They come in batches, like last year, I had 30 kids in a batch. They were taught foundation subjects and when we completed a year, the batch got over. I accompanied all these children with their parents to get them enrolled into a government school.
I have two set of kids currently, one junior, the other senior. For juniors, I teach them basics like 1, 2, 3 and ABC. The senior ones were pretty smart, they grasped quickly.
For regular classes I teach them three subjects: Maths, English and Hindi. I haven’t start EVS (Environmental Studies) because it will be very complicated for them to understand.
I pressurise them into reading, they have to learn reading because that’s a basic.
How do the parents react to your initiative?
Some parents are willing to send their kids to the government school but some parents don’t really appreciate it. So you have to keep persisting with them. That you have to send your children to learn, and you have to send the kids to school.
The reason they are not very okay with the idea is because they will have to pay the fee of whichever school the child gets enrolled into. So they avoid sending them to the school.
Sometimes parents don’t trust the school too. I can just advise them. It is very very difficult to convince them. It took me a month once to convince the parents of three kids. I told them you have to send the kids to school, because they were doing well in the classes I took.
The kids were willing to study so why not give them further education. They were grasping things that I taught them very quickly. I told the parents that if you stop it now (the education), the kids will forget all the stuff they learnt in one year. So I don’t want that for them.
I told them if you have any problem with the school, I will come with you and talk to the principal and was willing to help them with the application too.
Do you think about the choice you made to leave a job in corporate sector and do this?
Not at all, because I was very willing to do this. I still have the option to go abroad for further studies or anything. But I don’t want to spoil the future of these children by doing that.
My friends appreciate this a lot. They tell me I’m doing something concrete where India lacks, which is education. They tell me that by making it my top priority, I’m doing a very good thing.
They support me with my organisation by donating stuff. They donate clothes, pencils, notebooks, other stationary, water bottles and lunch boxes.
Some donation comes from our friends in Australia and United Kingdom. We never ask them, but they donate when and in whichever way they want to. They really want to help the kids grow as they get old.
Any objections the schools make?
Some do, some don’t. They are sceptical sometimes whether the parents will be able to pay the fee or not. Will the child be as capable as other kids or not? I convince them to give a child a chance. To give it a shot. If the child faces problem in that school, I find another school for him/her. That’s not a big deal.
What else are you planning to introduce these children to?
Government schools have computers, so now I’m planning to get four computers for these 10 children. So that they get familiar with using a computer before they go to the school. I’ll teach them the purpose of a computer, why is it used, and how to use it. Make them familiar with keyboard typing and other stuff.