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Educating street children has been an education
After retiring from the Education Department of Delhi Administration, I began teaching street children in Gurgaon. In eight years, I have taught more than 250 street children with the help of my finances.

EDUCATION HAS been the centre of my professional life from the beginning. In the 40 years I served with the Delhi Administration, I learnt a lot about education and its value. But when I first started teaching street kids, it was not a good start. Out of the first 80 children who showed up in the first few weeks, 50 left. This forced me to think about how I could persuade them to carry on. At first, I found great resistance amongst children and their parents who mostly lived in slums and ghettos in Gurgaon. The parents ‘logic was each child away from home and at school is income lost.

So I started to help out in little ways such as notebooks, stationary and calendars from Nai Sarak in Chandani Chowk. I gave parents practical reasons by telling them that as a labourer they earn Rs 200-330 but their children can earn much more than that if they get educated. Persuading them also involved making personal visits to the hutments of labourers and slum-dwellers. I tried to paint a clear picture to them. I asked students and their parents, “Do you want to see your son or daughter as a street hawk? Will you feel good if you see your grown up son lugging bricks or working as a sewage cleaner?” Some just didn’t listen or showed interest. Education was alien to them. But I carried on with whoever showed up willing to be taught.

Today, I am in a position that I teach two groups of students at two locations in the DLF area in Gurgaon and my classroom is the sidewalk where students sit. After someone in the family drops me off at my teaching spot, I teach the street children rudimentary English, Hindi and counting on all days except Saturday. I am glad that some students have learnt enough to read the larger-sized Hindi headlines in a newspaper. Since I take pride in my work, believe in God and a family member named Gaurav has been my inspiration, I like it when I am called Gaurav Maa Snehlata Hooda.

It’s true that many people arrive in big cars and want to donate resources towards what I am doing. At first, I had no inclination to accept this charity though I appreciated their gesture. You see, I have always taken pride in my work. From my student days, in Rohtak and Delhi, I have been a record holder in studies and sports. Most of you will be surprised that at the age of 68 I participated in the Half-Marathon held in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium held recently, and ran 4.5 kms in 31 minutes. Even today, I wake up at 4 in the morning and walk for more than 45 minutes every day. I am introspective by nature, don’t like to gossip, am quite independent-minded, and don’t like to take help from others.

I find myself at cross-roads. It’s only with the realization to not to hurt other people’s heart-felt sentiments that I have agreed take help to expand my teaching efforts. My plan is to educate street children till higher classes, hopefully help in graduate studies and guide them towards some sort of gainful employment for both boys and girls. I also think it will be good to have a larger house where I can accommodate and even take care of needy children who want care and education. I already use my pension to fund education of street children. I will continue to use my finances. When it comes to choosing whom to take help from - I will ensure that their intention and objective is public service. I am confident that more street children will follow the example of those who have been educated under my guidance as it is education that makes one's future.

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