This school has no door, no walls no roof, and even not a name; it comprises a few mats, a blackboard, a Hijab-clad teacher Yasmin ‘Madam’, and some 50 children. Together all of them enliven the footpath and turn it into a school for two hours every evening.
This footpath of V Power Gym Street in the Kankaya area of Mira Road in Mumbai has been a center of education for poor children for 12 years. The number of children keeps decreasing as it doesn’t have rules for age and entrance. A new child can introduce himself to Yasmin Parvez Khan and he is allowed to sit in the class and be part of the school.
Over the years the 3-5 pm School on this busy Mumbai road has become part of the metropolis’s culture. The car drivers are careful not to honk as some 50 children are engrossed in studies. The only time the school is closed is the Monsoon. Passersby follow the demand for stationery that Yasmin writes on the blackboard.
Yasmin started with two children, and today the enrolment has crossed 50. Yasmin says that in the beginning, she kept providing the children with paper, pens, and other materials. After the number of children increased, I once wrote a list of the necessary materials on the board.
Thursday party at Yasmin Madam's school
“I was surprised to see when many people arrived with the goods. Many said I need not ask for it; they would happily bring stationery and other items for children. I also ask them to distribute these to the children.”
The noise of passing traffic and pedestrians is no breach of peace for these students - mostly children of construction labourers and other daily wage earners - for their minds are focused on what their Yasmeen Madam says.
Yasmin is a homemaker whose husband is a manager in a global software company, and has been trying to provide basic education to children in this roadside ‘school’. Her school springs up at 3 pm every day and closes at 5.
Yasmin wants to change the lives of children who can’t afford a regular school for various reasons; she neither runs an NGO nor is from a government agency.
Yasmin says: “One day I thought of doing something for these poor children. After much deliberation, I realized that no amount of monetary or material help will be of use to them while education has the potential to change their lives and also impact the future of their families. With this idea, I started teaching two children and today I have 50 of them.”
Yasmeen’s school is for slum children where they receive basic education. For formal education, Yasmin Madam, as the children address her, gets them admitted to regular schools. This way Yasmin plays an important role in initiating these underprivileged children into regular education by invoking their interests in studies and knowledge.
"It takes time to get children from very poor families interested in education and getting their parents to understand its importance is ever harder task," she told Awaz-the Voice.
Yasmin says she doesn't charge a fee but since children need many things like notebooks, pencils, books, colours, bags, etc. She has an innovative idea for getting these needs of children fulfilled. Pointing to her blackboard, she says, "Whenever I need something for children, write it on the board and you will be surprised that within a short time, someone delivers it."
To date, children have never had to wait more than half an hour to get their basic material for studies. She smiles and says that she feels happy to cook for children each Thursday. As the party went on, many people living in the neighbourdhood and passersby started bringing food and gifts for the children. The party makes children happy and adds to their enthusiasm
Today Yasmin Madam's first student is in 12th standard.
People are often inquisitive about a Burqa-clad woman teaching children on a footpath and they stop by to see the school.
Yasmin says that initially, even her family was not happy with her decision. “When I explained my point and I needed to reach out to these children to make them study, they understood. Today, my family including my mother-in-law, father-in-law, husband, and my children support me.”