A Jammu and Kashmir Administrative (JKAS) officer along with other volunteers has been running an ‘Open Paathshaala’ (Open school) to teach the slum children in Jammu’s Greater Kailash locality. Her initiative has been winning accolades from the netizens.
The 2019 batch JKAS officer Ranjeet Kour, who is posted as a taxation officer in J&K government, claims she has been running the Paathshaala along with her sister and other volunteers from the year 2014 onwards.
“I was doing Masters in Social Work when we, around 5-6 batch mates, started an organisation in the name of my father, Avtaar Singh, to feed and teach the slum children,” says Kour.
“When we started, we would prepare extra food in our homes and then distribute it among the slum children, destitute, non-state residents living under Tawi Bridge, needy people at Government Medical College Jammu and the leprosy patients at the leprosy hospital,” she adds.
Gradually, the JKAS officer says, her group developed some linkages with the marriage and banquet hall owners to arrange from them the left-over food to distribute it among the needy people across Jammu.
Along with food, she adds, “our group later also started teaching the slum children. Initially, we taught the kids from underprivileged classes in their huts only. But gradually we adopted the model of Open Paathshaala to ensure that all the children study at one common place”.
How does the Paathshaala work?
The 2019 batch JKAS officer, Kour and other volunteers identify the needy children in all the slums and then start teaching them the basics like the children are taught in the kindergartens through creative teaching methods.
After the children start developing some interest in studies, the volunteers of Open Paathshaala help them in getting admission in various government or NGO run schools of Jammu. The children are taught until they reach their secondary classes.
‘Engaging slum children in studies a challenging task’
For Ranjeet Kour, the JKAS officer, the most challenging task in her mission is to engage the slum children in studies.
“So, to make their studies interesting, our volunteers celebrate their birthdays, provide them with gifts and toys like the children of kindergartens are provided with,” she says.
Once a child develops interest in studies, it is easy for us to get him/her admitted to a school.
How do the volunteers manage time?
Since Kour as well as some other volunteers associated with the Open Paathshaala are government employees, they usually manage time for the slum children’s studies on Saturdays and Sundays.
Some other volunteers who remain available on other working days teach the slum children on other days as well.
But Kour needs more dedicated volunteers to fulfil her father, Avtaar Singh’s dream—“no one remains uneducated and no one sleeps empty-stomach”.
Those interested to join her mission of teaching and feeding the slum children can meet Kour and other volunteers at Lane 5, Greater Kailash, Jammu.