At an age when most people give up worldly life and retire to live a life of their choice at the comforts of their home, this awe-inspiring octogenarian, Vimla Kaul, has been working tirelessly ever since she retired as a government school teacher about 25 years ago. Vimla Kaul spent most of her life teaching unprivileged children from Delhi slums who did not have sufficient resources to go to a school and gave them hope for a bigger, brighter future.
Most of the children who come to Vimla Ji’s school are from nearby slum areas. Their parents are mainly employed as housemaids, drivers, or do odd jobs in a locality that is a predominantly lower-middle-class housing colony. She teaches all subjects such as English, Science, Mathematics, etc. Moreover, the school has one working computer that provides primary technical and computer education to most students. For leisure, students are allowed extra-curricular activities, including yoga and various games and drills to unwind.
“Many government schools do not take children’s future seriously. They don’t teach them the right way and follow a no-detention policy that is not very beneficial. What this does is you are left with struggling teenagers who find it hard to structure a basic sentence in either English or Hindi”.
“We don’t discard any child away; our process is that we hold an entrance test to assess the standard of the child, and if they do not perform up to expectations in the class examinations, we hold them back. The crucial thing is to teach them the right way,” she added.
The Birth of ‘Guldasta’
Her school building is a tiny four-room facility to provide highly affordable, basic accommodation to workers and laborers. The school she founded is called Guldasta, and the co-founder was Mr. HM Kaul, her husband way back in 1993. Mr. HM Kaul passed away in 2009. Fresh from retirement, Mr. and Mrs. Kaul always wanted to do something noble and contribute to a charitable cause but were not sure of how to go about it and lacked direction. They found the much-needed guidance during a visit to the village of Madanpur Khadar, which is about an hour’s journey away from Delhi.
As the couple sat at the Madanpur Khadar village center with some other prominent elders, discussing their problems, they were perpetually bothered and distracted by the semi-clad, noisy young children running from one corner to another.
“As part of a Rotary Club drive, we got biscuits for the little kids. That is when one woman pointed out that getting the food is all well and good, but you should teach them how to get their food”.
This was the line that stuck with Mrs. Kaul and motivated her to work towards the foundation of Guldasta. The seeds of the school were implanted during that little but profound interaction.
Guldasta’s students are taught basic core subjects that lay the foundation. They are English, Science, Maths, and primary environmental education. To take care of technical requirements, there is a computer which imparts basic numerical and computer skills. Students often have excellent fun typing on the keyboard, which gives Mr. Kaul a sense of satisfaction. Mrs. Kaul settles into a classroom where all the children are seated and begins monitoring their work, and assesses their daily progress.
“Be careful of silly mistakes like this,” she politely cautions a student, marking a problem on a page before declaring the rest of her work as “very good.”
By consistently monitoring students’ progress, she can get a sense of their skill sets and capabilities. She sets reasonably high standards for her students in tasks and assignments because she believes that the quality of education should never be compromised. Students are carefully evaluated before they are promoted to the next class.
A Teacher With a Difference
Two of her students are helping her by taking on the reins of a teacher at Guldasta now. One of them has a computer degree. The other has found employment as a mechanic. It was a proud moment when she saw yet another student of hers working at a Chinese restaurant. He proudly insisted that Mrs. Kaul would not pay for her meal that day.
“If I can help even one child rise out of their situation and tough circumstances, that’s what matters to me. Most importantly, I want to give them a memorable childhood loaded with memories that they can fondly cherish later on in life.”
This zeal and passion for educating children set the 84-year-old Vimla Kaul apart from the rest of the teachers. Even at this age, she imparts whatever she knows to the poor and needy children to the best of her capacities. Education is the backbone of the country, and its children are the future. Mrs. Kaul’s infectious energy is what legends are made of and is truly inspiring for any country citizen.
She is not simply a DOER, but a DOER with a difference.