“There is a 12-year-old girl who stays in a slum. She used to go to a government school but had to drop out because her family could not afford her education. She then started working as a child labourer and continued to do so for about two years to help her mother earn a living. After some time, an organization approached her and wanted to help her study again. But where are the schools for children like her who have to start with the very basics? She will not be able to understand anything if sent to a classroom full of children her age. We call such students ‘out of system children’,” says Ananth Kumar, the founder of Kaliyuva Mane – a free quasi-residential experimental school for rural children.
“In 1992, I settled down in Srirampura village on the outskirts of Mysuru. There I got a chance to observe the education system in rural India closely. And I saw that children were going to school but they were not able to reach the learning levels they should have. Children in Class 5 were not able to read books used in Class 1,” he says.
“Ideally, we want to support the students till they stand on their own feet. But it is very difficult due to financial constraints and limited manpower. But even then, we support some students who come from extremely underprivileged backgrounds when they enter college,” says Ananth.
“Education depends on a lot of things – the environment at school, parents’ education, the financial level of parents, etc. In 2010, a 16-year-old boy named Prashant came into the school. He was a child labourer, a school dropout, and his mother worked as a domestic help. He came in asking for work. I asked him if he wanted to study instead and he said yes. He passed his board exams with flying colours, went to college and has now found a job. Similarly, there is Manu. His parents are farmers and he had to drop out of school after Class 1. When he came in, he could only write his name in Kannada. Today, he has a job with a government agency. Impact stories like these keep me motivated to continue doing what I am doing, every single days” concludes Ananth.
This story was first published on The Better India.