For two hours every weekday, Sharma leaves his day-job at a general store in Shakarpur — his brother fills in for him — so that he can teach the children, reported Yahoo News.
Sharma, a 40-year-old father of three from Aligarh, was forced to drop out of college in his third year due to financial difficulties. When he decided to start the free school, he didn’t want other children to face the same difficulties he had.
“Whenever I passed by this area, I would notice that children were spending all their time in the fields or playing around,” he told the Indian Express.
He eventually persuaded local laborers and farmers to allow their children to attend his school instead of working to add to the family income. He hopes to equip these children with the tools necessary to overcome their poverty.
“They come here everyday. I manage to keep them ahead of the school curriculum,” Sharma told the Indian Express.
He even allows children technically too young to attend the government school to sit in the classroom.
Sharma starts at the basics and helps prepare the children for admission to government schools. When he started the school a year ago, he had 140 students. Now 70 of them are in government schools, reported Yahoo News.
“Our teacher has told us that when poverty strikes, you should open your mind, and that can be done only through education,” Abhishek, 15, a student of Sharma’s told the Indian Express.
His work isn’t limited to the school under the bridge, though. Sharma has been teaching underprivileged children in other parts of the city as well.
“I mostly taught laborers’ children. As they moved from site to site, it got difficult to follow them everywhere,” he said.
Laxmi Chandra, a postgraduate in science, also helps out at the school.
“I don’t take attendance. They love coming here because there are no school-like boundaries. In fact, I want to keep it like that,” Chandra told the Indian Express.
Sharma says his greatest achievement is changing the attitude of his students’ parents. Many of them now encourage their children to study.
“They understand that if children in the villages in the interiors of the country can go to schools, why not in the national capital.”