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Friday, August 13, 2010

From Darkness To Light: Night School A Ray Of Hope For The Underprivileged

First night school in Mumbai was opened in 1885 by noted social reformer Mahatma Jyotiba Phule. The journey since then has reached to more than 150 schools. While others were just commenting about the infrastructure 39-year-old Nikita Ketkar an Indian Civil Services decided to change the things herself. After resigning from government services, she founded MASOOM an NGO and took up job of city’s night schools. Help started pouring and she now aims to adopt all night schools of the state.

Education has always had been a neglected sector in India, while the government has given only lip sympathy and has never given importance to the younger generation. Even the budgets allocated towards the all round development of the students and teaching fraternity is negligible.

The site of a government school whether it is Delhi, Mumbai or a small town of Asansol it is the same – old rickety building with leaked roofs, dull classrooms, emitting foul smell, which not only makes children dull and sick, but also the teachers and the school staff to stay away from the educational institution.

Even the night schools are same like the government schools; even then students flock to these schools, as they do not have any options and with more awareness that without education future is bleak.

Most of the night school students – boys or girls earn their livelihood during the day time by slogging for around 10 to 12 hours. While in the evening they come to the school and attend classes.

Thus to make the night school students more comfortable and environment friendly, a former Indian Civil servant Nikita Ketkar has took up the cause of these neglected lot who work and study and earn to fill the stomachs of their family members.

The 39-year-old former civil servant left her lucrative job, after seeing the problem of the students studying in night schools.

“I was shocked to see during my first ever visit to a night school, the condition of the classroom was horrible with plasters peeling out, the building was not painted for years, with poor lighting and students had to strain their eyes to read the notes written on the blackboard,” According to Nikita.

“I was moved by the pathetic scene and thus I thought that something has to be done for this neglected lot and thus I got involved in doing my little bit for this fraternity in my own way after leaving my lucrative job,” she said.

Nikita who had tried her hand as a journalist and was also a lecturer before joining the civil service, says “I always wanted to do something for the neglected lot and this was one of the best ways to motivate and guide the students who are keen to do something in life.”

Recalling her association with an NGO ‘Pukar’, in 2006 while doing a research work on the ‘night school and its students’, where she learnt the plight of these students and their family. Most of the girls used to slog whole day with the household chores and also used to paltry amount by working in unorganized sector and would supplement the family income.

The 1998 batch officer of Armed Forces, Civil Services says, it was not an easy task to leave the government job (She worked at DRDO, All India Radio and NCC Directorate in different capacity) and work for the welfare of students from night schools. However, her husband supported, she claims proudly.

Night schools students never had science and computer laboratory, but with her initiative through her NGO ‘Masoom’ which adopted two night schools in 1997 at Parel in Mumbai - Milind Night School and Maratha Mandir Night School at Worli, Mumbaim she has setup the labs, due to which students who were deprived, had been thronging to the lab and many students have started attending schools regularly, Nikita claims.

‘Masoom’ has added four more schools and with innovative methods, Nikita has managed to provide library, mobile lab and computers. Students are also enjoying learning English and life skills too, so that they can compete with their counterparts from convent and other well established schools, a beaming Nikita said.

To involve the students and their parents regular workshops are organised where the parents and teachers come together thus the bridge is being narrowed by such meets, she said.

Also as a social responsibility and to create awareness amongst the students of the ill affects of tobaccos, smoking and liquor, “We organize lectures and seminars on smoking and nutrition,” she said.

One of the students has topped with 85 per cent in SSC exams this year and many more students have done excellently well, she says, adding that the topper will be given scholarship, Nikita has a team of six young teaching staff, and all of them are night school products. The ‘Masoom’ team has secured a future and now they are shaping the destiny of many more from the night schools of Mumbai and aiming to spread its wings across Maharashtra.

By S Mani
The author is a Correspondent with The Verdict Weekly published from Mumbai, Maharashtra and can be contacted at

Source: From Darkness To Light: Night School A Ray Of Hope For The Underprivileged

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