On Tuesday morning,a group of ten students looked expectantly at every car that passed by. Gingerly holding flower bouquets,they took up posts alongside the men in khaki outside the gates of a health centre in Jeevan Nagar of Southeast Delhi,eagerly awaiting the arrival of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The political significance of her visit was lost on these children. They cared little about international relations and nuclear policies. Their excitement had everything to do with coming face to face with Australias premier citizen.
Till a few years ago,entering a college was a distant dream for these children from Sunlight Colony in Jeevan Nagar.
But all that changed five years ago,thanks to the helping hand extended by an NGO and the Australian government.
Like many in the crowd,which greeted Gillard on her arrival at the venue,22-year-old Bharti,a student of Maitreyi College,is the only person in her family to go to college.
Looking at me,most parents now want to send their children to college, she said.
The excitement is palpable on her face. Im very excited that the Australian Prime Minister has, Bharti said.
Another student,Rohit,apart from being the first graduate in his family,was one of the first slum children in the group to get a bank loan for pursuing his studies.
I have always been creatively inclined and I was able to do a course in animation with the help of the loan, he said.
According to these youngsters,it was through Asha,an NGO,which worked with slum children ,that they were able to attend university.
Students also got the opportunity to intern at the High Commissions of Australia,New Zealand and Canada as well as in corporate houses like Macquarie Group,Rio Tinto and Pepsi.
Most students felt that the highlight of their internship was the fact that their command on English improved tremendously by the end of their training programme.
Although I have studied English in school,I would hesitate while conversing in the language. However,after completing my internship,I have become much more confident, Divakar Thakur,a graduate from Ram Lal Anand College,said.
The son of a construction worker,Divakar will soon join the PR and advertising section of a multinational company.
During their interaction with Gillard,the students were also asked about the difficulties they faced in studying while living in the slums.
There is a lot of noise and lack of space. But I managed to study in the community library,which is close to where I stay. When I got admission in a college,I was also able to get accommodation in the hostel. So,I was able to continue with my studies, Mahesh,another of the students who came to meet Gillard,said.
Talking about the achievements of these students,Gillard said,I think that we can learn a lot from you about what it means as an individual to focus and to make sure that the you make use of all the right opportunities that are made available to you.
Gillard,who had met slum children at a similar event in her earlier visit to India,also announced a grant of Rs 16.5 lakh for the NGO.