Life overturned for Mohammed Saleem when violent Hindu mob torched his juice shop in Shiv Vihar, a place worst hit in the 2020 Delhi pogrom. Saleem was worried about his children when bloody violence and coronavirus contained lockdown hampered their livelihood for months to come.
News about a school with free education harboured hope.
Saleem enrolled his three kids in Sunrise Public School in Loni, a town on the border between Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. “More than 180 children, affected by the pogrom, were selected after scrutiny for admission,” says Kishwar Shahzad, Principal of the school.
“Twenty children each were admitted on the first two days. 50 admissions happened on the third day,” claims Shahzad. Admission continues in Sunrise as parents still reach out with appeals.
Parents have to attach FIR with the application form to prove that they deserve free admission.
“People were hesitant to sent children to school after the violence,” says Aasif Mujtaba, who runs the school. “We persuaded families to sent children to school, especially girls”.
Mujtaba and his friends started off by initiating rescue operation during the violence. Later forming a relief and rehabilitation group, Miles2Smile, the team has been working on rebuilding the community. “I personally know most of the children. They are very keen to get back to school”.
The group also provides skill-based courses to the female students who have completed their higher secondary education. Assitance to enter higher secondary schools and other institutions are provided by Miles2smile.
Physical classes started last month for higher classes with half a dozen teachers. Students from Shiv Vihar — a few kilometres from the school — do homeschooling at a teacher’s house until pandemic situation ease.
“After the violence, we lost everything, it became impossible for us to manage the education of our children,” says Farhana who lost her livelihood during the violence. “Seeing our children in classrooms brings tears”.
Many families still await compensation promised by the Delhi government even after repeated instruction from the courts to release funds immediately.
Mujtaba also shared plans to expand the school in future. “We are looking for better space which can accommodate more students and have options to upgrade facilities”.
Miles 2 Smile Foundation is also working on opening a community-based health care facility in the same locality.