New scheme gives street kids home, school

New scheme gives street kids home, school
Preeti Jha
Posted online: Monday , January 14, 2008 at 11:43:50
Updated: Sunday , January 13, 2008 at 11:59:01

New Delhi, January 13 An innovative idea of providing both education and lodgings for homeless children will take root in April this year when the Directorate of Education (DoE), in a bid to reach out to marginalised sections of society, converts two disused Delhi schools into residential schools for them.

With over 50,000 homeless children living on Delhi’s streets, the schools will not be difficult to fill. “You can’t expect a child to come into school after picking rags all day, and living with the abuse that prevails on the streets. It’s not possible for these children to be educated unless they have long-stay care,” said Harsh Mandar, director of non-governmental organisation (NGO) Aman Biradri, which has piloted the idea of residential schools in partnership with other NGOs and the DoE.

By opening a school that runs classes during the day and provides meals and secure lodgings at night, the DoE hopes it will attract and educate both students who have never enrolled in a school and those who would otherwise drop out to earn a livelihood. “We’re not opening a children’s home,” stressed Education Secretary Rina Ray, “but we are trying to address a few of the underlying problems that prevent street children or child labourers, for instance, from going to school.”

In a simultaneous move, destitute women will also be recruited to live alongside groups of five or six students–a concept inspired by NGO SOS-India, which runs children’s villages across the country for orphaned and abandoned children, uniquely teaming up a childcare professional, known as a mother, with a child. “The mothers will be able to guide and aid their group of children’s educational and general development,” said Ray.

While the residential schools will be loosely based on SOS-India’s Children Villages structure, the DoE is in the process of working out a cheaper and, thus, a sustainable model. The government will cover the running costs, but the schools will be run by two NGOs (names withheld by DoE) specialising in the delivery of quality education. Ray said: “We hope the schools will provide a model that can be replicated in due course. Possibly a public-private partnership could be used to expand the project.” Mandar added: “I strongly believe we need a whole series of residential schools across Delhi.”

The schools will be up and running in time for the new academic year in April.

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