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Factory Worker Opens Street School to Teach Slum Kids

Kamal Parmar a factory owner for the past 15 years has been running an after-school program for slum kids in Ahmedabad, India, helping them with basic skills like reading and writing and even preparing for their school tests.
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Parmar’s story begins one afternoon 15 years ago. He was standing outside his metal fabrication workshop, near the slums of the Bhudarpura neighborhood, when he met a few kids returning home from the local municipal school. They were ecstatic about the end of their exams, which they claimed to have aced, so he decided to stop them and ask them a few questions. That’s when he made a shocking discovery – the students, even the older ones, did not know how to read.
“I took their exam paper and asked a few questions to some of them,” he says in a 2014 documentary titled Footpath School. “But none of them knew any answers. I thought to ask a few others. I asked them to read, but they did not even know how to read. Surprised, I asked them what did they write in their exams. All they knew was identifying the alphabet. And that left me thinking that something should be done for these children. And that is how, 15 to 17 years back I started this school.”

First, Parmar spoke to 400 students who lived in the area and discovered that only five were literate. So he invited the kids to visit his home every evening, where he set up a makeshift classroom with metal desks made at his own workshop. Despite being a school dropout himself, the factory worker planned to teach them everything he knew – right from the alphabet to preparing for school tests – while focusing patiently on the needs of each individual student. 

The humble school started off with 10 students, but over the years, Parmar managed to attract more students with a simple strategy – delicious dinners prepared right outside his school. “I teach them for two hours every day, and then we all have dinner together,” he said, speaking to Humans of Amdavad, a Facebook page that documents stories from the people from the Indian city. “Dinner doesn’t include simple Roti-Sabji, I provide them with hygienic and fancy dishes like Pav-Bhaji, Chana Puri, Idli-Sambhar, and also sweets. Due to dinner a lot of students are attracted here. I also take them to picnic once in a year.”

Today, the Footpath School has a total of 155 students and many of the kids that Parmar has taught in the past 15 years have gone on to attend college and build successful careers. “One of my girl student recently became Manager at a bank, then one of the students became a computer engineer, the other one became a mechanical engineer, and one of the girls is applying for medical, and the list continues. Imagine, those who couldn’t read and write are now engineers and doctors and managers at a bank. For me, this is success.”

Despite having studied only till the seventh grade, Parmar says he’s been able to teach the kids by devising innovative techniques. “I too began to learn along with the girls who studied further,” he explained in the documentary film. “Even at present, I teach around 50 girls in my own way. I ask them to read first. After reading I ask them to form questions on their own and read them out. This way they themselves form questions and also find the answers. In six months they learn all seven subjects like this – by forming questions, finding answers and learning them by-heart.”
“I have always valued education. And when these children don’t get it right, I feel we should think of something for them,” the inspiring roadside teacher concludes.
Credit: odditycentral
Kumar Parmar’s dedication towards education reminds of Rajesh Kumar Sharma, who set up a similar school under a bridge in New Delhi, where he teaches children from the city’s slums too poor to attend regular schools.
Can you do this for the poor?


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