We decided to visit homes of Mythri team children who are writing 10th standard examinations this year. So, on last Saturday, we, the teachers and children were travelling to one of the girl's home. After travelling for about 30 kms, she asked us to park our vehicles on the roadside. Further, the road was not motorable. We started walking. That was my first visit to a slum. She took us to her mansion! Her father was in another alcoholic world. Her mother hurriedly borrowed two or three mats from neighbours and spread them on the uneven ground, which was cleaned with cow dung.
All of us entered her house bowing our heads, to save our heads. We sat on the mats and there was no space left! Putting up a brave smile on her face, the girl’s mother welcomed us. Knowing about our visit, she had piled up all their belongings in a corner and camouflaged it with a bed sheet. Of course there was no toilet. They used the nearby canal for washing all. One incandescent bulb was hanging which was tapped directly from an electric post. Many curious visitors were looking at us from the opening of the house. Someone told us, “Badavara mane, Enu tilko bedi” [Poor people’s house, do not feel bad] Someone else added, “Avarige gottide, Adakkee bandiddare”.
Thanks to the power of advertising! Pepsi and Fanta have entered slums also. Mother opened a Fanta family bottle and poured it into plastic tumblers. She served us Good day biscuits and Bananas also. Some woman narrated how girl's father does not care for the family. He visits house once in a blue moon. Mother often becomes a victim of domestic violence and the children silent spectators to this violence. Mother told us, how she has left all the three children in 3 different free hostels.
While coming back, the mother accompanied us. Some youth gave us curious stares, some indifferent ones. It was getting darker and with a heavy heart and a pensive mood, we left the place. While coming back our Teja’s remark broke the silence. “Brother, when I grow and become a police, I will construct houses for all these people”
About girl's Eduacation: She studied in three Government schools and finally bid good bye to school. She worked as a child labour in Bengaluru, first as a child care taker and secondly as a domestic help for about two years. Then she came home and started helping her mother.
Thanks to the efforts of her relative, she again joined a free hostel run by an NGO and joined another Government school, only to drop out after a few months. In November 2012, another NGO brought the girl to Kaliyuva Mane- a free non-formal quasi-residential school. The girl was around 13 years old. She did not have any educational documents like Birth certificate, Transfer certificate or progress report. At Kaliyuva Mane she started learning from alphabets and numbers. This year, the girl has appeared for 10th standard public examinations in English medium through another recognized school. Thanks to the excellent emotional ambience at Kaliyuva Mane which has changed the outlook of girl. Kaliyuva Mane will strive hard to build her future.
Some questions to the readers: Was there any school for this girl to learn? As per RTE Act, the girl could have joined age appropriate 8th standard in any Government school. But will such children be able to comprehend the lessons? Is it possible for the teacher to pay special attention and start teaching alphabets and numbers to children like this girl among all other 8th standard children? Can 13 year old girl be integrated with 1st standard children?
Don’t you feel a new education system is required for these OUT OF SYSTEM/SCHOOL children? Can you please share, share & share this blog with your friends till it opens the eyes of our policy makers: including housing minister and human resource development minister Smt. Smriti Irani. Should RTE give only ‘Right to Schooling’ or ‘Right to Education’ also? Don’t you feel every educated person with values is an asset to his/her country in particular and to the world at large? Our Education Minister Sri Kimmane Rathnakar has instructed the Commissioner, Department of Public Instructions, Bengaluru to take necessary action to grant approval to Kaliyuva Mane as a ‘school’. But the Commissioner has written back to DDPI, seeking clarification, whether there is a precedence of giving approval for such a non-formal school. DDPI is yet to reply and our anxiety continues.
- M.R. Ananth Kumar