Shuruaat—ek jyoti shiksha ki provides underprivileged children with free tuition and access to sanitary pads
Till five years ago, Aanchal Kumari was not sure if she could complete her elementary education. This year, after scoring 87 per cent in the class 10 examination of the Uttar Pradesh Board, she has chosen to pursue science in class 11, and hopes to become a doctor one day.
Kumari, who lives in the Alopibagh township in Prayagraj district, attributes this turnaround to all the blood, sweat and tears of the teachers with non-profit Shuruaat—ek jyoti shiksha ki who have been visiting her colony for the past five years and teaching children for free.
“My father, a vegetable vendor, splurges almost his entire earnings on alcohol. The family environment has been so grim that my schooling was never prioritised. This changed with Shuruaat,” she said.
Based in Prayagraj, Shuruaat promotes education among underprivileged children and those living in low-income settlements by providing free tuition classes, stationery and notebooks.
“Over the past six years, we have taught more than 150 students of different age groups. Some of our early batches have even enrolled at government engineering colleges,” said Abhishek Shukla, founder, Shuruaat.
This year, six of its students, including Kumari, have secured first division in the board examiniations. The non-profit also facilitates enrolment of its students at government schools.
“We have recently opened a play school in Prayagraj to teach younger children at a monthly fee of Rs 1,” said Shukla, who has obtained a postgraduate degree in social work.
Shukla launched Shuruaat in 2016. “The idea came to me when I saw a seven-year-old girl begging at a railway crossing. She told me that her mother had passed away and she had to care for her younger brother by herself. I visited her slum and found many others like her,” he said.
After the incident, Shukla started teaching four to five children for free in Harinagar Basti slum area in Prayagraj. “Over time, more students started coming to us and many people volunteered to join me. We now have three centres in Prayagraj and the neighbouring Bhadohi district,” he said.
As the non-profit expanded its reach, the teacher-volunteers, who are college students themselves, noticed that the number of young girls was on the decline and realised that menstruation and a lack of access to proper sanitary products were causing the low turnout.
“The girls told us that one small packet of sanitary pads costs Rs 30, which is expensive for families who earn Rs 500-Rs 1,000 every 15 days,” Shukla said. Hence in January 2021, Shuruaat launched two pad banks, one at its play school in Prayagraj and the other at its centre in Bhadohi city.
So far, 900 girls have opened an ‘account’ with the banks, which provides free sanitary pads to them. The volunteers follow up with the beneficiaries each month to ensure that they have access to sanitary pads.
“The pads are collected through donation drives we conduct every few months. If there is a shortage, we buy more ourselves,” Shukla said. He said the initiative is helping many girls return to school and fulfil their aspirations.
This was first published in the 16-30 September, 2022 edition of Down To Earth
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