VIJAYANAGAR: Eighteen children of construction workers are looking at a bright future, thanks to the Right to Education Act and a kind education official.
For many years, the street was their home, their playground and workplace. Today they have found shelter, protection and admission, and are basking in their newfound life.
For these children, moving from the dusty, chaotic streets to a safe, steady and protected environment has been a life-changing experience.
Children of workers who have migrated from Madhya Pradesh, they are grateful to Nagarathnamma D, Block Education Officer, South Range-2, for making it possible.
When they were fending for themselves, they sold balloons on the streets, looked after their younger siblings, and played amid the dirty, dug-up roads beneath the Metro Rail bridges.
They cannot believe they have a roof over their heads, food on their plates, books to read, a place to relax and play, and school uniforms and good clothes to wear. They even go on picnics and Metro rides.
Tent school first
In 2013, 33 children were identified under the ‘out of school’ Education Department survey in Vijayanagar. The department initially put up a tent school and imparted a bridge course, preparing the children for school. Eventually, 18 children were admitted to five private, unaided schools.
They have adjusted well, face no discrimination, and are coping with their studies, say officials.
Schools that have admitted them are RNS Vidyaniketan, Holy Angels School, Sree Bharatiya Vidyalaya, Adichunchungiri English School, and New Cambridge School. If nine are studying in the first standard, the rest are in LKG. The schools follow the ICSE and the state syllabi.
Nagarathnamma told City Express the department had to overcome much suspicion and opposition from parents.
“They are homeless, illiterate, and speak only Hindi. Since they had been working on the stretch along Yelahanka, Peenya and Vijayanagar for 10-15 years, they were on the streets, with no avenues to educate their children. We managed to convince them about the importance of school,” she said.
Nagarathnamma is passionate about educating such children and does her best to get them to school."Of the 33 we initially identified, 10-12 went back to Madhya Pradesh but the rest were clothed, housed, and admitted to big schools,” she said.
She is assisted by many people, including teacher C H Chandrashekaraiah and parent Jayanthi. After much thought, they decided to house the children at the Government Model Primary School in Hosahalli and turned two big classrooms into a dormitory with an attached kitchen.
Others pitched in to help. If Vijaynagar MLA Krishnappa looks after their daily breakfast needs and provides clothes, NGO Annapurna is donating their groceries. The group has not taken any funds from the government to run this initiative.
Mela, a chirpy girl now enjoying her holidays on the streets with her big family of five siblings, is happy she is studying.
Playing at the government school that has become their home, Kiran and his friends shower all their love on Nagarathana whom they affectionately call amma.
Mela, who has started learning English and Kannada, said, “I enjoy going to school.” Thanks to the initiative, these children are finding a way out of their poverty and squalor.