Mata Savitribai Phule Mahasabha (MSPM) tent is attracting a lot of attention from the crowd in Ghazipur.

Over 30 children, mostly rag pickers and children of guards from the nearby colonies and a few from farming families sitting in protest are making a big ruckus as they repeat numbers and alphabets in chorus.

The noise quotient is bringing a number of curious onlookers to the tent. 

The Savitribai Phule Pathshala has been running at the Ghazipur protest site since January 22.

The pupils — their numbers fluctuate from 30 to 60 daily — started off with a great difficulty as the Andolan Committee weren’t keen on having a school at a protest site.

The indifference notwithstanding, the school is not only prospering, it is bringing a lot of change in the lifestyle of these young students in terms of their keenness to learn and also towards their personal hygiene. 

“Initially we couldn’t see the colours on their clothes. They were all covered in dirt,” said Nirdhesh Singh, who runs the school along with three other teachers. 

“Now they have all started to work towards cleanliness and personal hygiene. Nowadays they troop in well before the start of the school,” Singh, who had to initially lure these children with candies and other treats to bring them anywhere near a white board, said. 

“Madam I haven’t got my notebook yet. You have to give me two books as well,” Shabbo, who is seven, asked Limdevi Maurya, who took the class on Tuesday. 

Karthik, 10, whose father is a guard in the nearby Gaursons apartment, was in attendance.

Kunal Pradhan, 8, a student of Balvidya Public School, said, “Sir mera school lockdown se band hai, isliye aata hun (my school is shut since lockdown that’s why I come).” 

Young Jamshed, whose father Jawaid is a rickshaw puller, has been a regular attendant.

“Bahut accha lagta hai (It feels really good),” he says.

Nirdhesh, who is also the national president of MSPM, said the organisation works for the poor and downtrodden in Uttar Pradesh and when they joined the protest only then this idea of running a school came about.

“We run a campaign for de-addiction and suggest to take up education to prosper,” she explained.

“Nobody is bothered about the lifestyle of poor. So it was important for us to show these children that they are also a part of our society. And that’s how this school came into being,” she added.

Besides pupils, the school has also started to attract attention of teachers like Limdevi, who has travelled all the way to the protest site from Bastar, Chhattisgarh.

“I came here yesterday,” Maurya said.

“Today was my first day. I enjoyed it thoroughly. And it helped that these children already know the numbers and alphabets,” she added.

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