Firdous: The One Woman Army Spearheading Children’s Education in Mehrauli

Firdous: The One Woman Army Spearheading Children’s Education in Mehrauli

”Most school going children in Ghosiya Colony (Mehrauli) do not have access to smartphones and internet connectivity. Without the latter, their education will get disrupted,” says Firdous. A community mobiliser with Oxfam India, Firdous successfully set up a Mohalla Class in the colony.  Thanks to her, the children in her class have had consistent support with their studies.

With schools closed for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and classrooms becoming digitised, students without access to the internet have been left behind. This prolonged school closure caused immense learning gaps in their education.

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The learning gap in the education of children from the colony was a major cause of concern for Firdous, who then decided to do something about it. A resident of Ghosiya Colony, she lives with her husband, in-laws and her two sons. Her husband is a driver and the primary breadwinner in the household. Her sons are in class 10 and 9. 

“Oxfam India encouraged me to ask around and look for people with absolutely no access to smartphones and the internet, and start a Mohalla Class here for them.” Firdous then conducted a survey of people in Ghosiya Colony (a neighbourhood of predominantly working class Muslims) without these facilities. She spoke to 150-200 people for the survey, and then identified students who would need her support the most.

She searched for open venues for the Mohalla Class but was unable to find such a place. She then decided to set up the class in her own home. Oxfam India provided her with teaching materials such as a whiteboard, duster, markers, etc. The Mohalla Class commenced on 18 January 2022, with Firdous taking on the mantle of teacher as well. Prior to getting married, she used to be a schoolteacher. She continued to teach afterwards by taking tuitions at home. With 17 years of teaching experience behind her, it put her in good stead to teach this class as well.

The classes are held from Monday to Saturday from 3 PM to 5 PM, and the students are between 5-15 years of age. The classroom setting is a lively one. The house entrance opens up to a large room with brightly coloured curtains and sheets laid out on the floor on two sides of the room. The teaching format is that of a tuition centre, where Firdous begins by assigning them some work and then the students approach her one by one, with their doubts and homework. Some of the older students practice addition and multiplication on the whiteboard.

The main subjects taught by Firdous are Hindi, English and Maths. However, if the students have doubts in Science and Social Science subjects, she is more than happy to help out. When asked about managing their studies when there is such a wide disparity in curriculum, she replied, “I divide up the work by starting with the youngest students. I assign exercises that will help them with their alphabets. Then I help the slightly older ones with tables and simple arithmetic. For everybody else, I help them with their homework.”

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One of her students is 11-year-old Riva (7th standard), who is enrolled in the nearby Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya. The school had been closed due to the pandemic. She says, “No one in my family has a smartphone.  My uncle had one, which I would use for my studies. However, he went to his village after which my studies stopped. I really want to finish my studies. This is my topmost priority in life.”

After the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, all that Riva could manage was going to her schoolteacher’s house and getting a worksheet for practice. Firdous approached her family and said that she could help Riva by tutoring her. The school has re-opened but Firdous continues to help her with her school work in the Mohalla Class.

When the schools were shut, the Mohalla Class had 30-35 students. Now that schools have reopened and students are returning to school, Firdous takes classes for 14 students (seven girls and seven boys).

Sameena, whose daughter and son are enrolled in the Mohalla Class, says, “My main priority is that my children study and get ahead in life. Ma’am has been a huge source of help in this matter”. Firdous has generated a lot of goodwill in the community by being able to support their children’s education during this crisis period.

📢Oxfam India is now on Telegram. Click here to join our Telegram channel and stay tuned to the latest updates and insights on social and development issues. 

 


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