Éclair: A School That Inspires and Enlightens (and has no classrooms or exams)

It was on a hot summer morning in Ludhiana when a high school graduate then, Jalnidh spotted kids form a nearby slum in a park near her home. She asked them, “Padhoge Kya?” (Would you like to study? ) The kids eagerly welcomed the opportunity and started reciting the alphabet. At the end, she bid them goodbye after distributing sweets without the slightest hint that this would begin a new chapter in her as well as the kids’ lives. She had started the class without the intention of continuing it the next day. However, when one of the students asked her the timings for the next class, she couldn’t resist teaching them again.

“I couldn’t think of a reason in the world to reject that innocent invitation by a knowledge hungry kid to teach them’”, Jalnidh told us.

The people in her locality reacted in diverse ways. While most of them discouraged her, there were a few who gave her the necessary push. Unshaken by the disapprovals, Jalnidh kept her spine straight and told everyone that she prioritized imparting education over simply receiving it. There were also some benevolent people who encouraged both Jalnidh and her students by distributing sweets and stationary items.

Thanks to Facebook Jalnidh’s friends read about the noble cause and decided to volunteer. Few became guest teachers at the street school.

Éclair at Ludhiana taught these kids basic manners, proper hygiene, alphabet, rhymes, disaster management, dental hygiene and tooth brushing techniques. It also sensitized them about the ill effects of tobacco and other drugs. Most of all, Éclair taught them how to dream. It provided the stimulus that the kids and their parents needed. Many of Éclair students enrolled themselves in nearby schools.

Éclair now has expanded its branches to Amritsar, Ganganagar and Delhi as well.  It has about 15 spirited young volunteers, mostly college students who teach poor kids in parks in the evenings. The curriculum is flexible and context based. Usually, the volunteers start with alphabet, English or Hindi, according to what is thought as suitable for the kids, for them to get enrolled in nearby schools.

The volunteers from Éclair want more people to join in and impart education to as many children as possible. Here is a brief about the concept, syllabus and other FAQs.

Concept :

Éclair is a street school chain being run by college students in the states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi. The concept is to involve high school students and college students in imparting education to street kids in urban areas, thus channeling their free time and enthusiasm to the strata which needs it.

How to Éclair?

All you need is a park, street kids and a bit of enthusiasm. You don’t even need a room!

What to teach?

After starting with the basic alphabet, the syllabus can vary according to the teachers and students. Counting and basic science is taught through innovative teaching techniques. More than elementary knowledge, these kids are  taught practical skills that they need the most in the kinds of circumstances they live. Activities like how to cross road, knowing traffic lights, how to wash hands, how to brush are organized by the volunteers.

Aim

The aim is to reform the outlook of the kids – they now know what is it to dream and to aspire. Éclair volunteers are doing a good job filling their eyes with hope and empowering their lives with quality education.

What ahead?

Éclair plans to publish an SOP on “how to éclair” and reach out to vacationing school students who can start such small ‘eclairs’ in their community parks nearby. We definitely need volunteers who can start eclairing in their localities so that extensive coverage of street kids is achieved. If Kerala can achieve 100% literacy, why not other states.

While RTE after being enforced in 2011 will allow universal enrolment of kids in schools, éclair has already begun the groundwork for the same – convincing parents, motivating kids by providing elementary education in community parks.

How to get in touch with Éclair?

E-mail: eclairstreets[at]gmail.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_158791800829306

About the author: Kanwardeep Kaur is studying to be a dentist and writes for passion (and pocket money!). Reading, painting and creative thinking are three things that interest her. While not believing in bringing big changes, she constantly thinks of making small differences.

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