Gaurav Maa: The mother of 150 underprivileged kids

75-year-old Snehlata Hooda, who is popularly known as Gaurav maa, runs a school called Gateway of Education-Gaurav Niketan for underprivileged children in Gurugram

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Supriya Nidhi

There is a satisfaction that comes from knowing that you are probably helping some people in the world. I have been teaching underprivileged children since 2003; it’s been fifteen years now.

I was working with the Delhi government for 40 years and I was not able to give my attention to such issues full time; I could only teach at night. I began with teaching children of street vendors under the street lights. I have simply followed my father’s footsteps. He used to spend a lot of his time with children of poor parents during the British rule in India. It is from him that I got this zeal. When I retired in 2003, I decided to completely devote myself to educating poor children. Since then, I have been spending most of my pension on educating them. Thirteen years ago, I began a school in Gurugram, called Gateway of Education- Gaurav Niketan, for children of daily-wage and domestic workers and I had a group of ten. Today, I am teaching more than 150 kids; the school has come a long way since it was started.

Earlier, it was very difficult to motivate the parents to allow their kids to attend regular classes, because their financial needs took precedence as sending children to school meant they couldn’t be sent to work. Then I started educating the parents about the importance of education.

When I started, the children had to sit under a tree with just a blackboard in front of them. I didn’t have stationeries either, so I had to make them write the let¬ters in sand. Now, we have classrooms, stationeries. The students have been put into classrooms depending on their age and aptitude. The classrooms have all the required essentials such as charts and blackboards; the school also has toilets. Students are provided lunch, bags, books and uniforms, so that they can study without any hindrances. I encourage my students to enrol for examinations and pursue higher studies. Six of my students have recently passed class eight examinations.

Gaurav Maa:  The mother of 150 underprivileged kids

Since majority of these children belong to poor families, I realised that a singular focus on formal education does not help their cause; they need to be vocationally trained as well. So, I have partnered with organisations who can help the girls learn to sew and knit. It will help them to start earning at an early age, especially girls who are eventually married off when they are quite young. I have also partnered with hotels and they have selected two of my students as their employees. I teach them in English and I feel proud when people tell me that my students speak good English. We focus not only on studies; I encourage them to participate in sports as well. I was a good athlete during my school days; I had won medals at the national level too. I continue to participate in events for veterans.

Gaurav Maa:  The mother of 150 underprivileged kids

This school is open to all and I will provide all possible help as much as I can. Our foundation welcomes donation in the form of stationeries, books and uniforms. We do face cash shortages, but that has never stopped me. I cannot and will not give up so easily. These children are a part of the society and it is important for them to feel included.

Gaurav Maa:  The mother of 150 underprivileged kids

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