Educating Dalit kids about the history, achievement and struggles of prominent Dalit icons like Dr B.R. Ambedkar and Sant Valmiki, Bhim Pathshalas (BPs), an initiative by the Bhim Army, are quickly gaining prominence in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Initially started as a two-hour, post-school coaching class for Dalit children in Saharanpur, they have now spread throughout the state, including places like Meerut, Agra and Muzaffarnagar bolstering the Dalit movement in the state.
Owing to the drastic lack of facilities in government schools in rural areas, Bhim Pathshalasa were started by the founder of Bhim Army, Chandrashekhar Azad alias Ravan, to ensure that the Dalit children, whose parents, generally, are unable to bear the expenses of a private school, do not miss out on education in their key formative years.
However, BPs offer more than just regular academics, like science and math, they also explore the history of Dalits in the nation along with the lives and struggles of prominent Dalit icons.
"Since around two years, I have been running a branch of the Bhim Pathshala. It was about the same time when Chandrashekhar Azad, Kamal Walia, Vinay Ratan and Manjit Singh Nautiyal were travelling from village to village and were promoting the thoughts of Baba Saheb. They also told us about the Bhim Army. They made us aware of the atrocities Dalits face in our society and inspired us to take a stand them," said Sarita Ambedkar, national spokesperson of the Bhim Army Women's Wing.
"Because Dalits cannot afford to send their children to private schools for quality education, we took the initiative to educate them properly so that a change can be brought in the society through education," Ambedkar added.
"You are aware of the state of the government schools in the state. We provide this service for free for the children, our member come together, with money and resources and the educated ones conduct the classes, mostly at a member's residence," said Kamal Walia, the Saharanpur district president of Bhim Army.
"There are over a thousand such schools all over the state in many districts. Apart from regular academics, we also make the children aware about Bhim Army, about the struggles, lives and thoughts of all great leaders who took a stand for the poor and the oppressed," he added.