For Islamuddin, 24, a resident of Shiv Vihar, one of the worst-hit areas during Delhi’s 2020 communal riots, images of the February incidents two years ago: his grandfather’s house was gutted by fire and his family’s motorcycle. being destroyed – kept reappearing in front of him whenever he heard a sudden sound or saw a group of people huddled together.
Today, she is teaching Hindi and social science to riot-affected children and is trying to overcome her trauma.
Islamuddin is one of the 14 teachers at Sunrise Loni Public School, Ghaziabad, which was started in August 2020 for children who were victims of the riots. It was started by the Miles2smies foundation, a non-profit organization run by Aasif Mujtaba who was then pursuing his Ph.D. at IIT-Delhi.
“In August 2020, after the violence and national lockdown, I met some families who said they couldn’t pay for their children’s education because of the ‘double whammy.’ We initially thought we could make a list of 10-15 troubled families and sponsor the children’s education. But when our volunteers went out to meet people about it, they came back with a list of 80 children,” said Mujtaba.
So the school started with 80 children, and in the last two years, the number of students has grown to 350, most of whom are from areas affected by the riots, but there are also children from around the school According to Mujtaba, 22 students had lost their parents during the riots.
The teachers are also from riot-affected areas, and seven teachers are from Shiv Vihar, including Islamuddin, who is currently doing an MA in Hindi literature at IGNOU.
“I had never seen such things before my eyes: petrol bombs being thrown, people shouting slogans from afar, threatening to kill. It was all a flash, but when it was over, and we tried to get back to normal a week or two later, those scenes wouldn’t leave my eyes,” he said.
As she teaches children, she says, addressing their trauma is the hardest part.
“There are children who lost their homes and witnessed violence, and then there are children who lost their parents. It’s even easier to explain what happened to the first one. But for the latter it was difficult to even call them to study and talk with them. In the early days, even if you mentioned the word “dad”, the eyes would start to water. We started with the older children, explaining to them that coming to school and studying is the best way to move forward. We took them on a picnic, held quizzes, told them to express themselves in writing, and slowly tried to create a sense of normalcy. We try to talk to them more about the future and what they want to do,” he said.
The school teaches children from Kindergarten to Class 8, after which the foundation helps enroll the children in a public school or sponsors their education in a private school.
“We teach all the subjects at school, but from this session, since we can do physical classes again, we have decided to reduce the curriculum and devote more time to extracurricular activities,” said Mujtaba .