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Indian Couple Run Street-side Classes For Poor Students

A child practices writing during a sidewalk class taught by an Indian couple, Veena Gupta and her husband Virendra Gupta, in New Delhi, India, on Sept. 3, 2020. It all began when Veena's maid complained that with schools shut, children in her impoverished community were running amok and wasting time. The street-side classes have grown as dozens of children showed keen interest. Now the Guptas, with help from their driver, teach three different groups three times a week, morning and evening. While many private schools switched to digital learning and online classes, children in most government-run schools either dont have that option or dont have the means to purchase digital learning tools like laptops and smartphones. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

A child practices writing during a sidewalk class taught by an Indian couple, Veena Gupta and her husband Virendra Gupta, in New Delhi, India, on Sept. 3, 2020. It all began when Veena's maid complained that with schools shut, children in her impoverished community were running amok and wasting time. The street-side classes have grown as dozens of children showed keen interest. Now the Guptas, with help from their driver, teach three different groups three times a week, morning and evening. While many private schools switched to digital learning and online classes, children in most government-run schools either dont have that option or dont have the means to purchase digital learning tools like laptops and smartphones. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

On a quiet road in India's capital, tucked away on a wide, redbricked sidewalk, kids set adrift by the country's COVID19 lockdown are being tutored.

NEW DELHI: On a quiet road in India’s capital, tucked away on a wide, red-bricked sidewalk, kids set adrift by the country’s COVID-19 lockdown are being tutored.

The children, ages 4 to 14, carry book bags more than 2 kilometers (a mile) from their thatched-roof huts on the banks of the Yamuna River to this impromptu, roadside classroom. There, they receive free lessons in math, science, English and physical education, taught by a former Indian diplomat and his wife.

It all began when Veena Guptas maid, who lives on bank of the river, complained that with schools shut, children in her impoverished community were running amok and wasting time.

If they stayed at home doing nothing, theyd become drifters, said Dolly Sharma, who works at Veenas high-rise apartment, which overlooks the lush riverbank.

Veena, a singer and grandmother of three, and her husband, Virendra Gupta, decided to go out to the street and teach the kids so they are not left behind when school reopens.

They dont have access to internet, their schools are shut and they dont have any means to learn, said Veena, who bought books, pencils, notebooks and other teaching materials, and set up the small, open-air classroom under the shade of a leafy banyan tree.

Indias stringent lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 shut schools across the country in late March. Most remain closed as the number of cases has surged past 5 million, making India second worst-hit in the world after the United States.

While many private schools switched to digital learning and online classes, children in most government-run schools either dont have that option or dont have the means to purchase digital learning tools like laptops and smartphones.

There is only one mobile phone in my family and it is usually with my father. I cant study online, said Nitin Mishra, a ninth grader in Virendras math class. Mishras mother works as a part-time maid and his father is unable to find employment as Indias economy has been hit hard by the pandemic.

The street-side classes have grown as dozens of children showed keen interest. Now the Guptas with help from their driver, Heera teach three different groups three times a week, morning and evening.

After class, the children are treated to homemade lemonade and cookies prepared by Veena.

The Guptas say teaching the kids makes them feel closer to their grandchildren, who live abroad.

My father would make me spend my summer vacation learning the next years curriculum in advance, said Virendra, who served as Indian ambassador to several countries including South Africa.

That really boosted my confidence and made me interested in schoolwork. And that is what I am trying to do with these children, so when their school reopens, they are slightly ahead of their class.

Veena said she hopes to recruit more volunteers to teach the street-side classes.

It is not about the money that people can contribute and give, it is about their time, she said. They should take out little bit of their time, an hour or so, if not every day, every alternate day, and come and help these children.

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While nonstop news about the effects of the coronavirus has become commonplace, so, too, have tales of kindness. One Good Thing is a series of AP stories focusing on glimmers of joy and benevolence in a dark time. Read the series at https://apnews.com/hub/one-good-thing

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor


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