Srinagar: Two cousins took it upon themselves to teach for free students from flood-hit Maisuma and its adjoining areas after a leading non-governmental organisation(NGO) bowed out.
Cousin sisters Saima Rashid and Rafia Malik have been teaching the students in a tent since October last year in Mandar bagh area of old city.
A month after the devastating September 2014 floods, the NGO came looking for some space to offer free education to flood-hit students of the area. Rafia’s father Ghulam Mohammad Malik happily offered the front yard of his house.
“The NGO bowed out even as students started pouring in. We couldn’t bear to see the students loitering around and decided to teach the students for free,” Rafia told Kashmir Reader.
“ From October 15, we have been teaching students up to 7th standard and the roll has reached to 70,” she said.
“It was a noble cause so we joined. The enthusiasm of these kids is our greatest motivation,” says Rafia, daughter of Malik. She, however, said that the NGO despite repeated attempts has not bothered to visit the place.
“The NGO claimed to work for the children but did not show up again. They erected the tent, distributed some stuff to play and took pictures and then disappeared,” said Rafia.
“I think they have forgotten about this place. They should have been concerned about the plight of children,” Saima said. She is fourth semester student of Hotel Management course and travels to and fro every day.
“The NGO promised to pay a salary, provide furnishing, heating system and stationery. Even if they did not care about the children, I could not let the children suffer. I continued the classes,” Saima added.
“It is for the sake of Allah and I demand no salary, no remuneration for my work,” said Saima, who hails from Dalgate.
“They will have to appear in the exams when schools open again. We are preparing them for that. Someone has to take care of their studies. It is our privilege to be part of such a noble activity,” added Saima.
Even the dipping temperature has not stopped the classes.
“20 students among them have lost all the books and they study by sharing text books with their friends and take notes every day,” said Rafia, who studies English Literature in Kashmir University.
Toiba Farooq, a third standard student in the makeshift tent, lost all books to the devastating flood. Toiba studies by books she shares with her friend Hina Latif. However, Hina could only save English and Urdu in the September 14 floods.
“Those who have books share with those who do not have them,” said Hina.
Toiba and Hina, both live in the vicinity of the Mandarbagh, their houses have been badly damaged by the deluge.
“My father is a driver,” Toiba replied when this reporter asked why she has not bought new books. “Our house is damaged and he is busy in reconstructing it,” she added. Toiba’s only wish is to have books of her own so that she could study at home as well.
“It is heart wrenching to watch how these kids share their books. I cannot provide them books nevertheless their commitment has made me strong,” said Saima.
Another student at the make shift classroom Saiba Nissar a 4th standard student, is the only child of her mother. “She is an orphan and the only child. Her mother wants her to study,” Saima said. According to her, Saiba along with her mother Shakeela have been living in a shed which was washed away by the floods along with all the stuff. “But not once she stopped sending Saiba to classes even though she is struggling hard to make two ends meet,” added Rafia.
Majority of the students, said Rafia, belong to families which earn a little. “Their priority is to provide them shelter,” Rafia said while showing the record she has kept of all the students. “Their parents are bus and auto drivers, mechanics, salesmen, daily wagers, and labourers. They are busy in rebuilding the lost shelters,” added Rafia.
The make shift coaching centre begins its day with a prayer. When Toiba along with her friends sing, “Kis Cheez Ki Kami hai Moula Teri Gali Mein’, the two teachers wipe their tears.