Educating To Create A Brighter Future - Nitin Kumar’s Ghat Wala School At Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Our childhood has indefinitely a huge impact on us as people and is a time of our lives where some of us live carefree childhood whereas some have it tough, such as Kanpur’s (Uttar Pradesh) Nitin Kumar, who despite the tough childhood her lived learnt some of the hardest lessons and decided to use that as a fruitful future for him and other younger kids who came from a similar background as his.

Nitin’s mother worked as a domestic help to other well to do families who could afford domestic help as hers. She worked through her blood and sweat making sure her family had food on the table. His father didn’t have a steady job either which made making things work and running the household a difficult job. This was tougher as they were a family of six and all the children had to be educated and put in schools which came along with the school fees.

Nitin’s mother earned a bare minimum of 25 rupees per day whereas the school fees of all her children amounted to 300 rupees per month. There were days spent with eating leftovers that the homes his mother worked at offered her. And even then, his mother would herself mix water and sugar together and call it a meal to fill her own belly.

The struggle didn’t end there. The kids went to school however, amenities like stationery, notebooks, uniforms among other expenses would have to left out as there wasn’t enough income to support the same. He recalls how his classmates could attend private tuitions and get better learning, but he had to do it all on his own.

Now as a 28-year-old, Nitin talks of how he paved his own way through a degree in law which comes to an end this year. Nitin’s elder brother dropped out of studying after the 8th grade to work instead and help his family financially. Nitin later completed his school education by the year 2007 and that is when he started teaching the kids in his slums.

Unlike parents of kids who are educated and privileged and know about the importance of studying and education, it’s not the same for the kids in marginalized families as they don’t either have the knowledge of things due to being uneducated themselves and in most cases don’t have the supportable income to help their kids through school and college. Families on the less privileged struggle a lot in this regard to put their children’s education as the first priority.

Understanding and being gone through a similar circumstance, Nitin started teaching the kids in his area who were a part of the slums. The classes at this point are for students from nursery all the way to the 12th class with subjects like Sanskrit, French, and Music also being a part of his teaching curriculum.

The education he offered to all these spirited students was free with only one condition, that being that they continue this ideal and teach other kids younger to them for free as well. Initially the number of kids were minimal, but as he himself reached to class 12th, the number of students increased, and he had to look for a bigger space to carry out his teaching.

Thus, by the year 2009, he would teach the kids at Kamleshwar Ghat along the river Ganga. Following in 2015, Nitin named his school ‘Ghat waala school’ meaning ‘School at the banks’. And as one would expect, this endeavor by Nitin didn’t go unnoticed by the people in the surrounding areas. One such local resident was Harsh Shukla, a graduate in science who himself struggled with guidance relating to his career around the peak of his school education, decided to guide these students with theirs to explore what careers they could choose from, opt into, be interested in or otherwise basic guidance and counselling for their future careers. He helps Nitin and the kids in a similar fashion, none of it being for any financial gain but only as a service o help the young and bright kids.

Now, over seven years have passed and with Nitin and his group of volunteers, 200 students have received free education from Nitin’s ghat school as well as have had their fees paid for their respective government schools. And while not all of them are seeking further education, there are those who are continuing to pursue and complete their 12th class and will study beyond that as well.

By 2018, Nitin started his foundation named ‘Ek Nayee Rahh Foundation’ to help monetarily support as many kids as possible. The donors are generally the people in the neighboring vicinity and that is helpful as is to help fund the education and futures of the many children.

And like everything else affected by the Pandemic, it was only a matter of time before the ghat school would’ve been affected as well. While previously the classes functioned on the ghats, people passed around and this gave them visibility and at times people would donate school supplies or monetarily as well which helped, but as a result of the Pandemic, the classes had to be moved to a smaller room in the vicinity. The room’s rent and electricity expenses are taken care of by Nandini Upadhyay, an associate professor and Nitin’s mentor at his law college. The professor as time permits, also takes classes for the kids at times.

Nitin believes as he says, “Education is about self-respect and living a life of dignity in the society. Despite hurdles, I will continue the work of educating these children until they become examples for many.”