NEW DELHI - Their classroom is a flattened patch of dirt and rocks under the elevated rail tracks. Their blackboards are rectangles painted on a chipped concrete wall. Their teacher is a shop owner with no formal training, but a conviction that education is their only hope.
For some of these dozens of children of poor migrant workers in India's capital, this makeshift, open-air school under the rumble of mass transit is the only school they have.
India's Right to Education Act promising free, compulsory schooling to all children ages 6 to 14 was supposed to take full effect March 31, but millions of children still don't go to school, and many who do are getting only the barest of education.
So every morning, more than 50 children gather under the bridge for two hours of lessons at Rajesh Kumar's informal school.
They sweep the dirt flat and roll out foam mats to sit on. The students, ages 4 to 14, study everything from basic reading and writing to the Pythagorean Theorem.
"They teach much better here," said Raju, 12, the child of flower pickers. He also attends fifth grade at a government school in a class with 61 other students. There "they hardly teach anything," he said.
Rajesh Kumar's school under a bridge stands as proof of the hunger for learning among those either left out of the system or disappointed by it.
But Kumar fears his project is precarious.
He needs more volunteer teachers because of the mass of students, but doesn't know where to find them. And his unregistered school is squatting on railroad property.
"Whenever I am asked to leave this place, I will have to," he said. "Right now, the children are studying. We will take each day as it comes. As long as it remains possible, let's take advantage of it."