On a mission to educate slum kids

At this school,teachers won’t be expecting roses today. A rose costs Rs 10,a price is a little forbidding for the parents of underprivileged students for whom this school is run.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Published: September 5, 2012 4:13 am

At this school,teachers won’t be expecting roses today. A rose costs Rs 10,a price is a little forbidding for the parents of underprivileged students for whom this school is run. But the teachers don’t complain. The joy and satisfaction they derive from imparting education to these slum kids is worth more than all the bouquets of roses in the world.

“Children are so used to being screamed and shouted in the slums that they find attending our school a completely different experience,” says 25-year-old Alicia Remedios who majored in psychology and instead of working as a counsellor decided to teach. The school is exclusively run by Abode for Our Underprivileged Mankind (AUM) Foundation. The school caters to 116 children from six – seven slums around Koregaon Park and Yerawada. The classes are held in three rooms of the Don Bosco Youth centre.

There are several people who stay in slum areas but earn Rs 15,000 – 20,000 per month and can afford a decent education for their child. “So in January every year,we send our teachers to these slums to check the parents’ income. We then motivate them to send their children to our school,” says 42-year-old Priscilla Kutty who is the principal of the AUM Foundation’s school.

With just three teachers,three helpers and a couple of volunteers,AUM Foundation’s school has had an eventful four years and hopes to set up a new class every year,says 60-year-old Florence Braganza who retired as a teacher from Indian School in Dubai and now finds teaching slum kids a learning and challenging experience. “Parents of these children do not speak English and hence cannot monitor whatever homework we give them. So to keep the parents abreast of what their children are doing,the school also conducts lessons in conversational and spoken English for the parents for an hour,” says Braganza.

“For reforms to be effective it has to start at a grassroots level,” says Kutty who,too,has no formal training in teaching and graduated to being a principal from a housewife. “What we want to giventhem is an all round English education in a pleasant surrounding to nurture impressionable minds in a positive manner,” she says.

“The slum children are often exposed to harsh realities of life at a very early stage and are often left to their own devices when their mothers are at work. We are now using the stage to conduct classes for lower kindergarten school kids,” says Alicia who admits that they need more space for the school.

The school does not follow any particular syllabus but provides a thorough understanding of the subject. “We expose the child to karate,computers,music,art and craft and even take them on field trips. The dedicated involvement of teachers in moulding these young minds has found some donors including Concern India foundation to meet some of their administrative needs. Running the school yet remains a gigantic task as each year Rs 12-13 lakh is required for text books and other educational material given free of cost to the student,” says Kutty. There has been no drop outs since the school started.

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