Another hectic day. We had concluded a team meeting at Connaught Place, Delhi for my NGO the Khwahishein Foundation, and after 3 hours of intense discussions and planning, we were ready to go home.
As we were about to get on our rides, an innocent voice called out: “Give me 10 rupees please!” We turned around, only to find a dishevelled boy in soiled clothes, around 9 years old, looking at us intently. Going by the appearance, he was just another street kid, begging for money, but there was a spark in his eyes. And it was hard to ignore the impeccable English this seemingly uneducated kid had spoken! So we got to chatting.
We asked him his name and about his parents, what they did, and how did he learn such wonderful English. Adding to our amazement, he replied in English! He told us that his name is Aakash, and that his parents work at CP itself. We asked him if he learnt all this in school, and pat he replied “No! I talk to tourists here, they teach me English. I can't go to school”
This made us reflect long and hard on the work we were doing at 'Khwahishein', and what the underprivileged really needed. This child, whose only wealth is his zeal and enthusiasm, and a pocket full of dreams, wants to study, has the interest to study, but, for reasons, CAN'T go to school. It is kids like these who reaffirm the need of more accessible education, the key word here being accessible.
We have the Right to Education Act in place. It provides that the children will compulsorily be admitted to an age appropriate class in a school. So technically, a child who is 8 years old, will be admitted in class 3.
But come to think of it, will the child be able to cope with the syllabus and study pattern designed for kids who have already completed 4 years of schooling? Absolutely not! This is the ground reality, confirmed by Mrs. Pushpa Sharma, Principal, Haryana Govt. School, Sector 15, Gurgaon, and Former Principal, Haryana Govt. School, DLF Phase 4. She said that the dropout rate of such kids is high, because, unable to cope with the syllabus and the curriculum, they eventually leave, thus rendering all the legislations ineffective.
The need is to bridge the gap, and take measures which ensure that these kids not just get admitted to schools, but that they get educated, and enabled. We left the kid Rs 100 and an Ice Cream richer, and with a promise to ourselves, that we will do whatever we can to help children like Aakash realise their true potential.
With that aim in mind, we founded the 'Khwahishein School' in Gurgaon, which trains these kids on the basics of formal education, so that they can cope with the regular school syllabus. And, in 3 years of operation, we were able to admit 47 children to mainstream schools in Gurgaon!