MYSURU: To children of ragpickers in Mysuru city, Chaitra’s two-wheeler signalled that the magical world of books had arrived, and was of great help even during the lockdown. Chaitra is a coordinator, along with Mangala and Harish of the Buguri initiative of Hasiru Dala, an NGO engaged with over 200 children of ragpickers in the city. The initiative aims to prevent children from dropping out of school.
At a time when there is deep concern over dropouts, and the government now allowing partial reopening of schools, this initiative has shown how to keep students engaged, despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic. The library on wheels gives neighbourhood kids books to read, which they circulate on a weekly basis.
Chaitra says they realised they had to step in after finding out that online classes started late in several government schools, and many children did not have access to smartphones. "We found there were issues with mobiles. Whoever had access to phones, even basic phones, we started making conference calls. Our volunteers would call a group of students three times a week to tell them stories and explain to them. The response was good," she said.
They did not stop at this. For those without phones or internet connection, they took printouts of stories and added activities and questions to evaluate and engage them. "Through the book kit initiative, we distributed 20 Kannada and 20 English books," she said.
They are confident that this will bring down the dropout rate. "We did not demonise their parents’ work as that would have made them feel inferior. We might not be able to prevent everyone from joining the trade, but those who are forced to join will at least be in skilled jobs in waste management plants," she said.