A 61-year-old retired lecturer in Jammu has earned the nickname of ‘super teacher’ for empowering children of slum dwellers in Maratha Basti through education. Kanchan Sharma, who hails from Pipri village of Maharashtra’s Nagpur, has been educating these slum children since 2009. She conducts a two-hour class every week at the Maratha Basti in her makeshift open school called ‘Sangarh Vidya Kendra’. Kanchan started her journey in 2004 when she was posted as a teacher at government girl’s high school, Gandhi Nagar in Jammu.
“Three students from the slum came to get enrolled and I asked them whether there are any other students who want to join the school and their response in affirmative motivated me to visit them,” the 61-year-old told a news agency. Kanchan further revealed that she couldn’t bear the scenes of children chewing tobacco and wasting their lives sitting idle. Her efforts led to 40 slum children getting admission to the Gandhi Nagar high school.
However, when Kanchan realised that all the 40 children dropped out after her transfer, she then decided to open a makeshift school at Maratha Basti to provide free of cost education to the slum children. The school was finally opened in 2009 after due permission from the education department. More than 100 children got enrolled in her makeshift tin-roofed school, and many of them are now receiving their higher secondary education.
During the Covid lockdown in April this year when schools were again shut due to the second wave, she arranged a few smartphones to conduct online classes for her 120 students.
Kanchan got another shocker when she realised some of the slum kids stopped attending online classes and instead started begging at the city square. She motivated the childrens’ parents to not destroy their future. She had received state’s best teacher award, and national-level best counselor award in 2009.
Kanchan said that no NGO has so far come to help her in the noble journey, and she is paying the four teachers that she hired from her own pocket.