A School Amongst Nomads: Bringing the Light of Literacy to India’s Overlooked

Post a Comment » Written on March 22nd, 2012     
Filed under: Community Development
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The nomadic slum in Nangloi, where families live without government services

One of the greatest tools for those seeking after truth is the simple wonder of knowing how to read.

In 2008, Kamalakar Deshpande, who had joined Covenant World Relief partner Truthseekers International just a few years prior, was at a gathering of community leaders. There he met the leader of a nomadic Islamic group of Nangloi, a district in the northwestern edges of New Delhi. What Kamalakar discovered was a community that had been squatting on government lands in makeshift bamboo and tarp tents for at least two decades. In addition to a lack of basic needs for living in an urban setting (such as running water, electricity, bathrooms), the literacy rate amongst this nomadic group was virtually zero.

Deshpande decided to go and do something that was unprecedented within this highly traditional community: establish a school. He put together a makeshift tent in the community and began holding lessons. KAM Public School was born.

Truthseeker Kamalakar Deshpande, founder of KAM Public School

Today, KAM Public School meets in a rented space sturdy enough to withstand the heavy monsoon rains that hit India each summer. Deshpande also now has hired staff supporting him in the teaching efforts.
Deshpande believes that in order to break out of the cycle of poverty that this nomadic group has been trapped in for centuries, a better living environment than the slums is necessary. KAM Public School has made an agreement to send about five to ten promising students a year to Christian boarding schools in Dehradun, a beautiful city in the foothills of the Himalayas. The first miracle was getting together funds to send the students to these institutions; the second miracle was getting the nomadic Muslim tribal families to agree to send their kids to such a school, a full six hours away by train.

Where others may see a tremendous challenge, Deshpande envisions a fantastic opportunity. From the city of Nagpur, Deshpande’s parents made great sacrifices to send him to boarding school. It was there where he first made a commitment to Jesus Christ. He would later go on to earn a degree in Theology.

Kids at KAM Public School line up to receive free lunch, provided by Truthseekers International

Truthseekers International has supported Deshpande in his initiative to bring literacy to these children. To counter the malnutrition that stalls the mental development of students, Truthseekers has begun a free lunch program at KAM Public School that helps the children better function in class. This is greatly appreciated by the parents, both of whom usually work throughout the day to make ends meet and cannot provide lunch for their children.

The following letters, translated from Hindi and Urdu, are written by students at KAM Public School:

  1. My name is Husna Surfudin. I am a seven year old girl and attend 1st grade at KAM Public School. I have 8 sisters and 2 brothers. My mother’s name is Maam Sahib and my Father works as a helper for buffalo sellers. We cannot attend government school because in our community the children don’t go to school and because we cannot afford the uniforms and books. This is my first time to attend school now that K.A.M. is open here in our community.
  2. My name is Meena Usuf Khan. I am seven years old and my mother’s name is Shahab. My father works as a helper for a buffalo seller. In our Muslim community, traditionally no one is allowed to go out of the community and get an education, and there is no school within our community. Also, I have only one brother and my mother does not send him out for schooling because he is the only surviving son of 5 sons in our family. Deshpande Kamlakar has recently opened his KAM Public School in our community and we are very thankful, as finally we can get an education. I like to read and write and if it’s God’s will, I would like to do more things too.
  3. My name is Anish Alijan. I am 8 years old and I have 7 brothers and 5 sisters. My father is a community leader. My sister had an accident and now lives all day inside our home, as her leg is broken. One of my brothers has a childhood handicap. In my family home we always have problems. Our living is very difficult but am thankful that now I can go to school.

Centered on the gospel of Baliraja, the sacrificed king Jesus Christ, Truthseekers International is committed to bring justice and reconciliation to a country divided by caste, class and religion. Covenant World Relief and Covenant Kids helped to finance the support for KAM Public School. You can support upcoming caste reconciliation summits – much like the gathering where the meeting of Kamalakar and the nomadic leader led to the establishment of KAM Public School – by going to the project website.

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