Our timetables back in school had a swimming period thrown in here, a jujitsu session added in there, or a cookery class put in every so often to ensure that we not only get the best academic enrichment, but we also perhaps stumble upon a skill that will someday bring us our pay cheques. And yet, a startling contradiction within our own neighbourhoods stands true to this date. That slightly ramshackle school just down the road scarcely houses even the bare minimum curricular activities for their wards; so, including extra-curricular engagements for their children doesn’t even make it to their five-year plans due to budgetary constraints.
But there is a group of individuals, with all their faith vested in the power of activity-based learning, that was determined to spread the light of learning to children who are denied access because of their circumstances and backgrounds.
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them,” said James Baldwin. The Rhythm of Life is an NGO established on this principle.
“We believe in ‘learning without burden’ and follow a curriculum called ‘ABC’ (activity based curriculum). We teach through observation and play. We are working towards bringing perceptible changes in the society for the last four years. We strive to provide a better learning environment for the underprivileged kids. We have close to 300 students registered with us. Our main objective is to create an environment of learning for kids deprived from the basic rights of learning and education,” explains Devika Gulati.
Their model is simple, yet effective. The team along with other professionals associated with the NGO head over to schools twice a week and conduct sessions on a range of skills like music, singing, dancing, and theatre.
D is for dance and difference
Two girls who have been trained by the NGO, Tanisha and Kanchan, got selected on a full scholarship till their 12th grade in a reputed Delhi School, JD Tytler Senior Secondary School, on the basis of their dance and theatre performance on one of the events organised by the NGO in association with the school.
Tanisha tells us, in almost flawless English and an even more resounding confidence, “I have been extremely fond of dancing, but the only exposure I ever received was what little I got to watch on television. And then, when Rhythm of Life came to our school and asked all of us what we were all interested in learning, my hand shot up for dance. Ever since then, Saturdays and Mondays are the two days I look forward to eagerly all week, because I have been learning a whole lot of dance forms with them for the past five years.”
“Our achievement is the growth of each child. It feels so amazing when we visit and each child speaks in English and tells about what are they learning today.”
Under their guidance, Preeti, who left her school in fourth grade due to financial problems in her family, is now back to school and studies through the National Institute of Opening Schooling and is giving her 10th grade exams.
The rhythmic sense of satisfaction
“I feel each moment spent with them has been special. Children started loving us over the period of time. And before leaving the class they asked when is the next class or ‘Bhaiya Didi aap log kal bhi aaoge na’, those lines in itself made it so special, or when they first stepped on stage and performed it, made us emotional. They are now confident, happy, and encouraged,” adds Devika.
The NGO started with a modest group of 20 students, but word got out as the kids excitedly telling their friend about their exploits in these hobby classes every week – and more and more children were convinced that they were mission out on quite a fun bandwagon. Subsequently, their student base grew to over 350 children.
Presently, their focus is to uplift three slums, where 350+ children are registered with us. The children belong to different low-income areas across South Delhi (Dhaula Kuan), within the age group of five to 15 years. Children above 16 years are associated with our employment generation campaign called ‘Avsar’ – which is a double-edged initiative meant to empower its beneficiaries and finance its benefactors.
Avsar invites girls above 16 years of age to come and learn Madhubani art and make products. Rhythm of Life helps market and sell those products, and a part of the profits goes to the girls who have made it, and rest is pumped into the NGOs activities. “It’s like a learn and earn model for the girls, to encourage and empower them.”
They believe the first and most crucial stepping stone for these children is granting them the same enriching childhood as their peers from higher economic backgrounds, so that when the time comes they get a fair shot at matching shoulders with them.