Not all children can be toppers or achievers. Not all children enjoy going to school, and not all are welcomed in many schools. Children who have faced school refusal, physical or mental limitations and challenges, emotional disturbance, or inability to fit into a school – where do they go?
Tucked into a small building in a suburb of Bangalore city is a Gurukul which insists that it is not a school. Established by highly qualified ladies who, after taking a break in their careers, wanted to do something meaningful for under-served children, they established this centre seven years ago in RT Nagar. The inspiring leader is Sonal Patel, who holds a post-graduate degree in law and is a qualified counselor and assessor. The core team consists of Jayanthi and Priti Chengappa who coordinate all the activities. Amazingly, more than a dozen very competent ladies lend their services unhesitatingly to whatever extent they can, either free or getting nominal honorarium.
It is unbelievable to see how this little unit has progressed, for when it started there was a teacher: student ratio of 10:1, i.e. 10 teachers and one kid! Patiently handling each little one who entered the premises, Gurukul graduated from a little space in the basement to its own airy and very welcoming 2nd floor with a little terrace and roof garden above.
Gurukul welcomes any child who is facing challenges, be they physical, mental or emotional. The loving ladies just sweep the child into their arms and slowly, gently assess his strength and weaknesses. They give unstinted love and affection in an environment where there are no blackboards, textbooks or rows of benches. Each child is lovingly and carefully guided to the right school or vocational training depending on ability, interest and willingness. Dozens of children have passed through the doors of Gurukul and many more keep coming in – whenever they do not or cannot go to a regular school.
Every child is welcomed in Gurukul, the quiet ones who just refuse to open their mouth and talk to anyone, to those who are so hyperactive that before you know it, they have gone on a toppling, tearing and breaking spree. It is amazing to watch how these children are allowed to be themselves when they climb up the stairs of Gurukul and start running around the entire place. Watched over gently but firmly, these children slowly mellow down – and then the assessment begins.
Every child is holistically assessed by more than one counsellor, and parents are interviewed extensively (most often separately). A detailed report is made out – without labelling a child or putting him down, but starting with many of his hidden talents that sometimes even parents may not be aware of. Then the challenges of the child are listed out, and finally a step-by-step action plan of how the child can be made to progress and overcome his hurdles is mapped out.
Gurukulers constantly keep in touch and liaise with a number of mainstream schools, integrated schools, schools that are sensitive to take a child who is a little different, and special schools. The report recommends what type of schooling would be most appropriate to the individual child, and a gentle counselling of the parents takes place to help them accept the limitations that the child may have. At times the child may require continuing at Gurukul for months, or even the entire academic year. The ‘Aunties’ allow them to do so. Even when a child has been put into a school, Gurukul continues to monitor his progress, even allowing the child to take a slow transition by spending some days in the school and some days in Gurukul.
Considering the fact that only children with difficulties come to Gurukul, the success rate is remarkably high. Almost all the children over the past several years have moved on to a better life, and most important – are happy with their growth, learning and what they are doing. Many of them come back in the summer vacation to get a booster dose of life skills and emotional intelligence. From challenged to bright and intelligent children who are restless and bored in classrooms, everyone loves Gurukul, and once they have been there, parents are assured that they will be guided correctly as to how to take the child along further.
There is no admission or any other charge other than a reasonable monthly fee, and often parents are allowed to pay as per the financial capacity of the family. The only condition Gurukulers put is that the parent should be genuinely interested in getting involved, exploring options and adapting to the needs of their child.
Learn more about the school here.
Contact at the email: banjarasgurukul@gmail.