Mobile school hit among street kids

Mobile school hit among street kids
15 Feb 2008, 0027 hrs IST,TNN

PUNE: Eight-year-old Karan Kumar collects polythene bags and recycled waste around the city and as the clock hits 2 pm, he stops doing his work. Soon, a van wheels in bringing a smile on his face. A host of other kids join him as they run towards it.

The ‘Manoranjan Shala’ van, a mobile school initiative, is a sliver of hope for kids like Karan from their daily grind at slums, pavements, construction sites and even traffic signals where they sell newspapers, flowers and other things.

An initiative of Sarva Seva Sangh (SSS), a non- governmental organisation (NGO), the Manoranjan Shala van steers away from the monotonous educational methods and instead teaches street children through fun-filled methods.

As many as 150 kids benefit from this school-on-wheels programme, which was started a year ago, Father Richard Quadros, assistant director of SSS, told TOI.

“Initially, it was very difficult for us to formulate this programme because the parents of the kids didn’t understand what was happening inside the van,” Fr Quadros said. Since these kids are working and bring home the much-needed money, they were scared that school and education would snatch away a breadwinner of the family.

“We had to think of something that would help the children without putting their families into jeopardy. The kids are not interested in mainstream education, so we decided to provide education in a different way.”

The SSS came up with the idea of organizing a van service with teachers who would go to eight spots including pavements, slums, traffic signals and construction sites and teach the children who work there.

“We have decided to devise modules like telling them stories that have messages on the importance of health and hygiene,” Pushpalata Salunke, a teacher who travels with the van every day, said.

The van, which mainly visits Wagholi, Ahmednagar road and Hadapsar has colourful story books and has an audio-visual set-up in it. The van is a storehouse of excitement for these kids which plays the latest Bollywood numbers. Telling stories, colourful pictures, carrom, clay work and puzzles are also used to teach them in a fun-filled manner. The session lasts for about an hour each day.

“Anybody can teach sitting on a chair and a table, but these children don’t want to learn that way. They are very talented but they need to be treated in a different way,” Salunke informed.

According to Fr Quadros, there were teething problems. The community did not accept the project. We had a job in hand and we convinced the parents and society about our motive behind running ‘Manoranjan Shala’. “After a year, we have heaved a sigh of relief because now the people are convinced and have taken in well.”

And that’s not all. Salunke says, “Many of the street kids, who are vulnerable to drug abuse, have decided to kick their habit after attending the school sessions.”

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