Nagarathnamma works as Block Education Officer of South Block 2, Bengaluru. Along with her work, she also runs an NGO for 25 street children.
We all have seen children on streets, especially when we halt at traffic signals. Children who beg for money or food, sell balloons, etc. Many times we send these kids away thinking we shouldn’t encourage begging. Sometimes, we offer some money or probably a packet of biscuits. Seldom do we question – Where do these children come from? Where do they live? Will the money they earn be sufficient to sustain their livelihood? Why do their parents let them beg? Have these children ever been to a school? Some people not only ponder these questions but also take action to change their lives. Nagarathnamma is one such person who took action.
She wanted to offer the option of a decent living to the street children. The seeds for this idea were sown in February 2012 when Mrs Nagarathnamma conducted a survey for out of school children in her block (Bangalore South Block-2). She found that many families were living on the streets in uninhabitable conditions.
Mrs Nagarathnamma and other like-minded individuals joined hands to teach the basics to these children which would be a foundation for the future mainstream education. This was called ‘tent shaale’ (bridge course school). The children learned the English alphabet and Kannada, songs and rhymes. The also learn about the discipline needed when they entered a classroom in the future. It was a difficult task since this was the first time the children encountered were in a different environment than the streets. The children also were unaware that people could show them love and respect. They were extremely sharp and willing to learn. This gave confidence that they could be sent to mainstream schools. But this was a challenge since they had to go to the schools from the places they lived. These homes changed often.
“The parents would many times not send the students to the school since they felt the children could earn some money by begging and selling balloons rather than wasting time going to the school,” Nagarathnamma said to The Logical Indian
The next step was to seek admission for these children in the mainstream schools. However, the challenge was that they needed to be regular, on time, completing their school work under supervision, maintain clean habits, etc. This wouldn’t be possible if they lived on the streets. Hence, with the help of few well-wishers and committed individuals, Nagarathnamma started Sarayu Charitable Trust to provide accommodation and food. The children were admitted to high impact schools in the vicinity through the Right To Education Act clause. Under which every private school must accept 25% of the students from economically weaker sections, the cost of which will be borne by the government. The uniforms, books, stationery and other requirements were taken care of by the Trust.
The Sarayu Charitable Trust team members had to face roadblocks at every step. Even though the children enjoyed studying, the parents wanted to take them back to the streets. The reason was that the kids earned money selling balloons and toys. Without them, the mothers were alone. The fathers persuaded for the kids to be brought back to get more money for liquor. Therefore, even after resistance from the members of the trust, some children were taken away.
Of course, financial problems are also the big roadblock. To overcome money issues, Nagarathnamma is running the NGO with the money she got after mortgaging her jewellery.
The major success here was that the children were getting adjusted to more a dignified life and believed that where they were born has nothing to do with where they want to be in the future. They have realised the value of education and don’t want to live on the streets anymore.
- Currently, there are 25 students, and all are placed in high impact private schools through the RTE admission process.
- They are working hard and doing well in academics. Most of them score 90 percentile.
- They also actively participate in co-curricular activities and sports.
The major success is the shift in the mindset of the parents. They now see value in educating their children and the efforts the Sarayu team members. The parents are also persuading other members around them to educate their children with the help of the trust.
The trust is working in the direction of identifying vulnerable children, gathering them to give them shelter with nutritious food, well-maintained sanitation facilities and education of high quality. Therefore, they can break the cycle of poverty and aim for a better life.
The Logical Indian applauds Mrs Nagarathnamma for her effort and dedication to uplift the lives of these street kids.
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