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The Museum School – Helping Slum Children Get Quality Education In An Unusual Way

They learn science by playing with the greatest inventions. They learn maths by throwing pebbles. They learn history by seeing the ancient ornaments and pictures, and a fun treasure hunt game helps them learn about the culture of various parts of India. Sounds unusual and fun and wish you could be part of such school? That is Parvarish- The Museum School for you.

Slum children get a practical learning experience at Parvarish.

Think of a scenario where students can’t wait to go to the school. Their eyes sparkle as the teachers reach their house to collect them. They can’t wait to stand in the queue to hop into the school bus.

Started by Pradeep Ghosh, an Ashoka fellow, in January 2005 for underprivileged slum children, with 20 children from 1 slum, it reached 70 children from 3 slums in its journey of 18 months. Parvarish now has 200 registered slum students with a regular attendance of 160 students.

pradeep ghosh
Pradeep Ghosh

“I wanted to divide my life into two parts; one for myself and one dedicated to others. I have lived my part of life now i want to contribute to the society and hence Parvarish comes into picture,” says Ghosh.

An IT professional, Ghosh took the plunge after getting associated with Plan International, an initiative that gives opportunity to visit NGOs, observe them and then present a layman’s point of view on that particular organization.

That was my first exposure to the social sector and I wanted to do much more than just that,” he says.

The Museum School

The quality of education is improving but there is still disparity between urban and slum area education opportunities, and it is increasing every day,” Ghosh says.

It all started with a thought. The children of slums weren’t given any privilege. “They didn’t go to school due to lack of resources and the government didn’t seem interested,” Ghosh says.

Organisation for Awareness of Integrated Social Security (OASiS) came up with an alternative solution to mainstream these slum children and provide them quality education. Says Ghosh,

It was a heavy task to get these children out of their houses. They come from a very different background. Drunk fathers, financial restrictions, family issues – there are many things that hinder the normal life of these children.

The first day saw attendance of 50 students which fell down to 20 children the next day. “But the dedication of the teachers helped us to bring these kids back,” Ghosh says.

Teachers of Parvarish go to these slum areas to make sure that the parents send their kids to the school.
Teachers of Parvarish go to these slum areas to make sure that the parents send their kids to the school.

How it works?

A typical day at the museum school starts at 2 pm when teachers go to the slums to collect children. Then a bus carries them around to the respective museums where they get the practical knowledge of how things work.

Initially started with the personal savings, Parvarish is now funded by Dorabji Tata Trust for two years. The collaboration with the museums is free of cost and so are services by the teachers. Says Ghosh,

Government teachers didn’t seem interested at all. So we contacted B.ed students. They have to complete a compulsory practical teaching course. So, they come and teach our students at Museum school for free which has helped a lot.

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The teachers conduct their sessions using objects from nature to teach the children through games. The session is followed by a group meal, and then a fun ride back home.

The students have learnt to read simple text and sentences, basic mathematical operations, all about the 5 senses and anatomy of the body, basics of Science, environment, evolution and habitat. Also, Terracotta and clay modeling, handicrafts, paper crafts, card making and much more than what a regular school would teach them.

Parvarish school has collaborated with five museums in Bhopal and Bangalore. They also work in Mumbai and Delhi on a weekend model. Every museum school has one coordinator and some volunteers who work on a regular basis.

A happy meal at the end of the school is another incentive these kids get to attend school regularly.

The challenges

The biggest challenge that the school faced was to convince the parents of these kids. They were apprehensive and didn’t want to send their children to school.

Another challenge was to find enthusiastic teachers. “Because it is not a regular school we wanted to make sure that teachers are actually interested in doing it. Luckily we got in touch with all these B.ed students who are willing to help,” says Ghosh,

Also, the team right now focuses on only slum children. So those children who are already part of a regular school, they would opt out of it due to pressure from their regular teachers. Ghosh says,

The students of these museum schools would be more curious and ask questions from their regular school teachers. This wasn’t accepted by these teachers and they pressurized the kids to opt out of the museum school.

The two cents

“I would like to suggest that if you want to work in the education sector, you need to think out of the box and out of your capacity,” Ghosh says.

He believes in not wasting time on generating new resources:

Use the current resources and optimize them rather than wasting time and money on generating new resources. You just need to match right with right and things will fall into right place.

Parvarish has collaboration with Regional Science CentreIndiragandhi Rashtriya Manav Sanghralaya, State Museum- Bhopal, RMNH in Bhopal and Bal Utsan NGO in Bangalore.

Pics Courtesy: Parvarish

About the Author: Born with a hobby to travel, talk, express and write, Shreya gets to do all of that and is even paid for it! Interested in rural development and social issues, she dreams of actually bringing a change in society and writing a book of her own one day. When she is not preaching others about a better India she is busy watching movies and playing video games. Follow her on twitter: @shreya08

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