Gurukool Kids, run by an NGO in Gurgaon, has educated and skilled more than 500 children.
Jyotsna Amit, 52 years old, was leading an ordinary life till 2005. But today she is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of children belonging to economically-weaker section through the medium of education and vocational skills.
Jyotsna recalls meeting a 12-year-old boy, son of her domestic help. He was not enrolled in a school and spent all day roaming on roads. “I asked him to help me with my plants. Soon the bond of trust grew between us and I was amazed to see his desire to learn. I started teaching him.” Soon, many more children joined in and from her home she moved to the park next to her house and started Gurukool Kids.
Gurukool Kids is a non-profit learning organisation, registered under Kruttika Trust. It is imparting primary education and vocational skills enhancement training to children. A group of social entrepreneurs, educators and volunteers together are delivering educational programmes. So far, over 500 children have studied in this school and have learnt the basic reading and writing skills. Out of which 20 children got admission in government school for completing their higher education.
The aim, Jyotsna says, was to create a place where anyone and everyone can learn whatever they want to, along with the regular studies. “I strongly believe that each child deserves an opportunity to learn and grow and be loved and cared for,” she says.
In its journey of little over a decade, Jyotsna faced many challenges to make sure more children could join in and continue their studies. The two main challenges, according to her, were to have the resources and means to be able to cater the needs of all the children and to counsel their parents to allow them to study. As most of the children come from families of daily wagers, these children always had the burden to contribute in the family income.
“Most of the children, when they grow up to 13 -14 years old, would get work and the money earned is more appealing to parents. Many children are forced to leave the school for taking care of their younger siblings. With girls the early marriage is a norm,” she explains.
She recalls the story of Ayesha, who was studying in a Madrasa. In 2010, when her sister was born she was forced to leave her studies and take care of her, as her mother, a domestic help, rejoined work. But she was keen to study. Gurukool Kids came to Ayesha’s help. They allowed her to bring her baby sister to school. And she continued to attend the classes for three years, before getting admission in a public school in Class VI in 2013, while her sister was admitted in class nursery.
At present, the school has enrollment of over 150 children from the age three to 15 years. It follows the CBSE curriculum and operates just like any other school. “We have compressed one year curriculum into six months. Because these children are much behind their age and we aim to prepare them for Class X board exams by 2020,” she asserts.
Not just education
Recognising the need for making children self-sufficient, the school also runs 'Earn While You Learn' programme and teach skills and empower them to become financially-independent. Skills like making greeting cards, earrings, decorative lights and vocational training programmes like computer literacy, and stitching classes are given.
“We believe in giving every child the opportunity to master basic educational skills along with learning innumerable ways to create beautiful things with their hands. Skills development will lead to social development in addition to improving the employability of these children. The focus is to teach help them become a responsible citizen.”
The growing need
Initially, parents did not take any interest. But now they are keen to send their children and are even taking interest in their studies.
The school has five paid teachers and a few volunteers to handle nine classes. Without any consistent sustainable support, it is largely dependent on family and friends for meeting the expenses so far. But the school has recently shifted to a new place which has substantially increased the burden of the rent. The monthly expenditure is close to Rs 1.25 lakh, which includes the rent and the salaries to be paid to teachers. “We need four more teachers to run the school properly,” says Jyotsna. To meet the growing expenses of the school and to support education for these children, Jyotsna Amit has started a crowdfunding campaign.
“This is the last door they are knocking. We never feel like saying no. We are expanding and we need funds for that,” she explains.
The school, at present, runs till Class VI but plans to expand to Class XII. It has also set up vocational training workshops to make children self-reliant and skillful. Starting from January, the school also plans to start a second shift of classes to accommodate more children.