New Delhi: 41-year-old Poonam Garg had a Masters degree in History and a passion for teaching but the housewife was unable to pursue it until now. Garg, a west Delhi resident, is one of the five homemakers among the 64 volunteers chosen by the Tihar Prisons to impart basic education to the prisoners under a campaign to attain 100 percent literacy.

The project called 'Padho Ya Padhao' (study or teach) has been launched with the help of National Literacy Mission of the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

"I always wanted to be in the teaching profession but unfortunately it never materialised as my children needed my time and attention," said Garg, who also has Bachelors of Education degrees in Hindi and Social Sciences.

"The children have grown up and I have ample time for myself. So when I saw the advertisement in the newspaper I decided to take the plunge as it would be a noble work and my long lost dream to teach would be fulfilled," she said.

Tihar Prisons had invited applications from volunteers last month.

Tihar spokesperson Sunil Gupta said, "We received over 100 mails and we selected 64 people who came from different walks of life. Of those selected five are housewives and 10 students.

"There was a student from IIT Roorkee who had volunteered  but then he opted out to allow his mother join the noble cause. She is around 48 years of age and highly educated. She has been selected as one of the teachers for our inmates," another jail official said.

"It is a great opportunity. I loved teaching so was in the profession. Those lodged in the jail are victims of situations. They are not criminals by birth," Satish Bhatia (68), a retired teacher, said.

Bhatia admitted that having Tihar inmates as students will be a "bigger challenge" to her as a teacher.

"They are the real underprivileged lot and we must contribute to their welfare for a better society," she said.

Gupta said more teachers are being roped in for the education campaign in the prison that houses over 11,000 inmates as it has impacted the life of many prisoners.

"In our first campus placement conducted in here in three phases this year, over 100 inmates were selected. Majority of those selected had enrolled in the Padho ya Padhao project. Inmates who were selected in the placement drive were offered salaries that ranged between Rs 84,000 and Rs 6,00,000 per annum," he said.

(Agencies)