Shanti Bhavan – Breaking the shackles of poverty through education
Nelson Mandela famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. And who has the power to change the world? It’s the children of today, who are the adults of tomorrow.
In the mid 90’s, an Indian American philanthropist, Dr. George came to setup a residential school that imparts education at par with the best schools globally. What was different was that he wanted the school to cater to the children from families that belonged to the “Bottom of the Pyramid” at absolutely no cost.
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Video Editor: Anand Hegde
Cameraman: Rukmagada Raja
The school takes in exactly 12 boys and 12 girls every year, maintaining the perfect gender balance. Even with nothing but good intentions, the journey was an uphill task, “When we first started out 18 years ago, people didn’t believe that a school like this would be totally free. They thought that there must be some ulterior motive. They talked about conversion to Christianity because my last name happens to be “George”. I live in the United States and shuffle between, so people said – oh well, they’re going to send the kids to United States and sell their body parts.”
With time, trust began to build and today, parents line up outside the school in the hope of getting their child a place.
After 18 years, our children have graduated from prestigious college, they are in world class institutions like Ernst and Young, Goldmann Sachs, Mercedes Benz and so on. The proof is there and there is no much excitement for the parents because many of the children are supporting their families.
The first criteria is the economic status of the family, whose monthly income should be less than Rs. 7,000 a month. The parent must obviously be willing to let their child stay in the school. The school does not take in more than one child per family.
One of their alumni, Shilpa Raj Anthony, who is a budding author, tells us about her memory of coming to the school. “For most of us who come, the first time we sleep on a bed with a blanket, use shampoo and soap, and wear footwear is the day we come to the school.”
The motivation for starting the school remains the same today.
The whole idea of social justice to find ways of giving equal opportunities to all children is still the motivating factor. My dream for Shanti Bhavan and myself is simply the childrens’ dreams.