FOR the children of the Pardhi community, who reside in temporary shelters in and around Gandhi Maidan near Mantralaya, commuting to school everyday was quite a hassle till now. But not anymore as BEST has come to their rescue and has started a bus that now ferries the children to and from the Lord Harris Municipal School at Crawford Market, free of cost.
The problem of the schoolgoers was brought to limelight when Pratham, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) did a survey that found out that several students from the community were dropping out of school. “We had visited the settlements near the Gandhi Maidan to understand why these children were dropping out of school. The parents said they did not have the means to send their children to school,” said BB Chavan, deputy director of education.
Soon after this, on July 1, the BEST bus service was inaugurated by the deputy director of education (DYDE).
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The bus picks up 42 children from Gandhi Maidan at 7am. “The children are accompanied by an elder from the community,” said Mangal Chauhan, a parent.
After school, the children are dropped back at 1pm.
The service has brought relief to the parents, most of whom hawk food items and toys at Marine Drive. “The service has been a boon to us as we don’t have to worry about the children’s safety,” said Chauhan, whose two children are in Class I and Class III.
She said it was difficult for the parents to drop the children to school everyday as they feared losing out on business. “Especially during the monsoons, when our income reduces, we have to struggle to find the means to send the children to school,” she said.
According to a BEST official, while the service is provided by them, the cost is being borne by the DYDE. The DYDE is paying BEST an annual sum of Rs 84,000 for its service.
“We are now planning to start similar services at other places in the city for children from economically weaker sections of the society. This should help us reduce the dropout rates from schools,” said Chauhan.