24-year-old S Vanaja from Warangal, Telangana, could not attend college due to her family's financial constraints. She had lost her father during childhood and her mother, being the sole breadwinner in the family, could not afford further education expenses. However, this did not deter the young woman from turning 'guru' for a bunch of slum children who do not have access to online learning.
According to The New Indian Express, Vanaja sets up an open classroom under a tree in the mornings and evenings while helping her mother run a shop. She imparts basic lessons to as many as students from LKG and Class 3 for free. The students belong to families of migrant labourers originally hailing from Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra and have been residing in make-shift huts constructed on government-owned land for the past two decades.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the education sector has shifted to digital platforms. However, children belonging to economically weaker sections of society have failed to keep up with the digital transformation. They are unable to provide digital gadgets and hence, cannot access online lessons which is forcing them to drop out of schools.
"The kids I teach don't have an internet connection at home; their parents don't even have smartphones. Some of them also find it hard to have proper meals, as they don't go to schools with midday meals anymore. Their families are mostly street vendors like me," said Vanaja.
"Whatever I learnt in my school days, I am imparting to the children. I know the struggles of their families because I'm also like them. I believe that it is my responsibility to impart education to these children, even though I have no classrooms to offer," she added.