By Anuradha Dutta, Kolkata, Nov 16 IBNS | 2 years ago

Saika Parveen, a school dropout had no clue about her future. Fortunately, one day she was directed to a Child Friendly Learning Centre.

It is run under the Aviva Street to School Poject by Development Research Communication and Services Center (DRCSC), an NGO.

"At the facilitating center Nasima Baji showed me new light through her guidance and the DRCSC provided me help and support. I am now a beneficiary of the project and receiving training in stitching and tailoring, which was otherwise, impossible for me," said Saika with her eyes full of hope, at the Aviva Street to School Annual Children's meet held at the adavpur University premises on Friday.

Every year, since the commencement of the Aviva Street to School project in 2010, an Annual Children's Meet is organised where the underprivileged children get the opportunity to showcase their talent in front of a wide audience.

Suhita Duttamallik, Co-ordinator, Aviva Street to School project said, "This project is the first of its type undertaken by DRCSC in an urban area."

"Our aim is to ensure that every child in the age group of 6-14 receives free and compulsory education," said she.

Even though Right to Free and Compulsory Education became a law in 2009, thousands of children are yet to derive any benefit from it. Born in the shadow of abject poverty, illiteracy and ignorance they are forced to go to work even before they learn to speak properly.

"Our first job is to create awareness about the importance of school education to the parents of these children as none of them have never been to school or exposed to any type of formal education," added Suhita.

DRCSC runs these projects through six facilitating centres in Kolkata, which work for three hours daily from Monday to Friday. The NGO is also associated with five schools-KMC School, G. J. Khan Road, Sapghachi, KMCP School Gholpara, Ramkrishna Prathamik Vidyalaya Rajabazar, Kasturba Harijan Vidyalaya near Tangra police station and Shastri Harijan Vidyamandir.

"There are enough schools to cater education to children and opening a new school was not our agenda.What is required is to curb the number of dropouts which is very high in this section and there is no force to guide them back to school. On close observation we found that the school happened to be the most unattractive place for kids and going to school was cumbersome for them," she revealed.

In their urge to ensure maximum attendance of children in the schools, the project workers are working with the associate schools to make the school experience joyful with the help of teaching and learning materials and trained facilitators for additional help and problem solving.

"We function mostly in the ward numbers 57, 58 and 28 in Dhapa, Tangra and Rajabazar," informed the project coordinator.

Once the child is admitted to school, the field workers follow up with both the children and their families as also with the concerned schools.Weak students are provided guidance in the facilitating centres to keep their interest alive, in learning.

Older children, in the age group of 15-20, under the project are enrolled into various vocational courses like computer training, tailoring, electrical maintenance training, driving to enable to earn their own living with honour.

Talking about their older beneficiaries, Suhita said, "Often teenage girls are being married off and young boys opt for anti-social activities in the absence of education and training. Vocational training gives them the strength to make their own decisions because they are not dependent on anybody, financially."

The project has raised awareness about child rights and has stimulated several local clubs into action, claimed the NGO.

"We have children's groups who are fully aware of their rights and are quick to report any violation," said Suhita.

Approximately 150 children are benefiting from Aviva Street to School project, asserted Suhita.

According to DRCSC, more and more people are calling up 1098 in their area of operation to rescue children in trouble due to increased awareness about child rights.

DRCSC has been operating in West Bengal since last three decades and runs 35 projects in 12 districts of West Bengal encompassing 550 villages with the objective is to raise rural poor from poverty and providing them sustainable eco-friendly means of livelihood.

(Posted on 16-11-2013)