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An effort to be a home rather than a jail for wayward children

Children’s homes or observation homes are often seen as ‘juvenile jails’ or a last resort shelter for orphans,runaways and child labourers.

Written by Aiswarya A | Mumbai |
May 22, 2009 2:29:18 am

Children’s homes or observation homes are often seen as ‘juvenile jails’ or a last resort shelter for orphans,runaways and child labourers. However,a new initiative being planned at the Dongri Children’s Home hopes to make it a ‘home away from home’ for these children.

The authorities of the home,the child welfare committee and NGOs like Saathi,Pratham and Balprafulta who have been working with the children are now engaged in streamlining their efforts to come up with a need-based curriculum for them. The home is run by the Children’s Aid Society,a government-run institution,and is governed under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,2000.

“Children who are sent or brought to these homes remain here for an uncertain period of time depending on their need or circumstance. While it is imperative that their educational requirements are met,exposing them to the formal education that children in their age group receive in schools may not yield the same results. Hence we are working towards formulating a curriculum to ensure that they will learn as well as enjoy their time here and eventually step out as nurtured individuals,” an official said.

Representatives of the NGOs emphasised that their focus is on developing a ‘protective environment’ within the home. They said the primary idea for the initiative had come from the district officer of the Department of Women and Child Development.

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“Till now,different NGOs worked with the children on various aspects. While one took up counselling sessions,another organised vocational guidance workshops and a third focused on imparting basic education. However,we realised that if we can streamline our efforts and come out with a cohesive programme for these children,the impact will be higher,” said Mansoor Qadri,a representative of Saathi.

Besides regular classes on tailoring,computers,craft and other skills,the home presently hosts short-term workshops. Yoga and drama therapy classes are on while a housekeeping course for girls was organised recently. Pratham has been imparting basic education to the children and implementing the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan at the home.

“These short-term classes will now be woven into an integrated module aimed at the holistic development of the children. Every child will be given a choice on what he wants to do. Not every child is interested in sitting in front of a blackboard; there may be some who are good at games or any art. Our focus is not on bombarding the child with jargon-laden books but rather on honing their talents,” said Santosh Shinde,a child welfare committee member and a social worker from Balprafulta.

“The initiative comprises a convergence of NGOs and will work in phases. The first stage will be orientation,where a child will be informed about the home,the life that he or she will lead inside as well as the rights that he or she will enjoy. In the following stages,the child’s aptitude will be identified,his or her areas of interests determined and the process to facilitate her growth laid down,” said Shinde.

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