Take an early morning stroll at Carter Road, Bandra, Mumbai and you will see a group of five volunteers teach over 40 underprivileged children every day. A routine that began in the year 1997, this school for street children, slum kids and children of construction workers was the brainchild of GL Singh and Jyoti Kalle, a duo who set out to impart education in its truest sense. They teach, not only basic English, math and general knowledge but also make the kids aware of hygiene, good behaviour and persistence. Kalle, Co-founder of Navjyot foundation shares how the promenade displays a new look every morning with children of different age groups.
The idea of this open air school was born during a routine stroll when I noticed a gentleman teaching a handful of underprivileged children. With a group of volunteers, I began teaching the kids of construction workers. As the awareness spread, we invited children of slum dwellers to join us, she says. Like every first step on an untread path is a difficult choice to make, Kalle and her team found it hard to convince parents to send their child to school. To them, the concept of schooling wasn’t attractive enough. We started distributing breakfast after school which motivated parents to send their children. After an hour long session, students are given a healthy home-cooked breakfast.
Also, once in a while, passers-by too volunteer to provide breakfast, explains Anubha Sharma, a senior financial service professional and a volunteer. This open air street school sees over 40 students on week days and over 90 students on weekends. These kids deserve the right to education. More than anything else, they need our time and assistance in breaking the cycle of poverty. “Education, coupled with right counseling has helped a number of our students become independent”, says Meera Mamnani, a retired RBI employee and a volunteer. Ms. Mamnani, along with other volunteers, has been teaching these children for over eight years now. Most of the children who come to us have never heard of as a term. To them, the concept is new and fascinating. Once we are confident of their skill level, we admit these kids to various schools across Mumbai, says Mamnani.
Apart from helping them gain admission is schools, the foundation also helps them gain identity. Most of our students do not have birth certificates. Hence, admitting them to schools is very difficult. Our volunteers help them make affidavits, which form a part of their identity, and help them study further, states Kalle. Today, the street school has gained momentum and has received large donations in the form of stationery, activity books, notebooks, clothes, food and toys. Fifteen years down the line, the open-air school has seen most of its students succeed in their own way. “It’s a pleasure to see our students settle at a decent level. A number of them are now graduates working with various firms around the country”, concludes Kalle.
Courtesy: Times of India