By Dr Chetana Pokhriyal
Women’s Day is over – the spirit of celebrating womanhood should never be over. One such person that needs mention is Nikita Bansal, selflessly dedicated to the education of the children from families of rag pickers. Nikita, a student from my earliest stint as an educationist in SSDPC Girls’ Degree College in Roorkee, makes me stand tall with pride in her devotion. She believes that education is the best weapon to defeat the evils that prevail in society. With this belief, she started a social organisation, Navkiran, which began with tutoring 4 children from underprivileged society in 2011. The number gradually rose to 25 in a year and catapulted to 70 children from the vicinity of the slum area along Rispana in Dehradun. Nikita, the patron of Navkiran and social worker, today, passionately narrates how, along with her husband, Dr Kamal Bansal, who is a Dean in University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, she visited the slum area to motivate the parents to send their children to school. Convincing them on education without any fees was a major stumbling block. Nikita recalls how social structure, poverty and viciousness around the life in the slums can easily make these children the victim of social malaises like drugs, sexual abuse and criminality.
“In the evening, the drunken father beats the wife, leading to no food cooked in the morning, hungry children, so abstaining from school is the usual routine around the life in the slums.” When I inquired how these children were finally brought to school, Nikita, a mother of two grown-up sons pursuing higher education in Delhi and in BITS, Pilani, respectively, apprised me with a motherly instinct that the biggest motivation for the children at that age is food, which they look forward to, bringing them to school. Here, Nikita plays a major role in motivating them on cleanliness and keeping their vicinity clean, which means feeding them with snacks they love. Today, these children are hygiene conscious, have learnt to eat healthy and the biggest concern of ethics is also met.
When I asked Nikita how her mentoring has rubbed off on these children, she had a glint of satisfaction in her eyes, which clearly expressed a deep rooted urge to bring a positive change in the system. Any case of a student falling prey to drug abuse, she feels, is her failure and fills her with pain. However, she still feels confident of bringing him back to the system.
Understanding the needs of these children and their importance, Navkiran continued with the tutoring model till 2017, with numbers of course growing significantly. “Navkiran Educational & Welfare Society”, a non-profit organisation, got formalised in 2017. The sole purpose is to make quality education accessible to underprivileged children along with awareness and professional advice on health, hygiene and moral values. The most commendable part is that the society provides free education, uniforms, books and food to these children.
All this costs Nikita around Rs 5 lakh, per annum, which so far has been made possible with the help of family and friends. Today, Navnirman has hired 5 teachers who are equal social enthusiasts, eagerly contributing to the social change. It goes without saying that in order to bring these children into the mainstream, social enthusiasts like Nikita needs support to continue. All who support the cause should make their contribution to making a better society which has opportunities for all.
A salute to these unsung heroes.
(The writer is an Associate Professor & Head, Department of English, MKP PG College, Dehradun.)