Once a dropout, Delhi student sensitises youth on social issues

July 10th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS  

By Mayank Aggarwal
New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) Once a Class 7 dropout, a 20-year-old college student is now sensitising a group of Delhi youth to create awareness among them about social issues and their rights. Ashkeen Ahmad, a resident of the low-end Mandawali neighbourhood in east Delhi, left school at the age of 14 after failing in his mathematics examination and started working as a mechanic in an automobile repair shop. However, within a year he realized the importance of education after listening to his customers conversing in English.

His father is a daily wager in a printing press and his mother is a homemaker. Ashkeen is eldest among four siblings, including a sister and two brothers.

“I left my job and joined (NGO) Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST), where my younger sister Farah was studying,” Ashkeen told IANS.

He then passed his Class 10 and 12 examinations from the National Open School and is now studying for a bachelor’s degree in social work from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

During his final years of schooling, he worked for four hours a day at a tele-calling agency to add to his family’s meagre earnings.

“I want to return to society what I received from it,” Ashkeen said, when asked about his choice of the IGNOU course.

It was during his stint at ISST that he volunteered for community work and eight months ago formed a small group within it called ‘Maksad’ or goal to take his work forward.

The group has been operating from a small room within the premises of the Kalyanpuri police station that had been specially allotted to ISST for conducting its activities.

“Through ‘Maksad’ we started sensitising the youth of the Kalyanpuri area, which otherwise has gained notoriety for anti-social activities that take place there,” Ashkeen said.

The group also conducts classes in English and computer operations for students in the 13-24 age group for a nominal fee of Rs.10 per month. It also plans to bring out a community newspaper for the people of the area.

At present, ‘Maksad’ volunteers teach nearly 150 students in batches and there are nearly 100 more on the waiting list.

“I learnt English and computer operations at ISST and now I want to give back to other youth like me. Our aim is to make everyone here self-reliant,” Ashkeen said.

The group has its own library and computers and also conducts workshops on subjects like the right to information, the country’s legal system, democracy and theatre.

“We conduct regular workshops on varied subjects where we even invite police personnel to bridge the gap between them and society,” Ashkeen said, terming the response as “quite encouraging”.

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