With dreams in her eyes and confidence in her persona, 13-year-old Roshni excitedly marches towards Millennium School in Noida. Although it has been just four days in her new school, she is already listing the professions she wants to pursue when she grows up.
While every child in this private school has aspirations of making it big, Roshni’s journey is a little different.
Born in an economically backward family, Roshni lives in a basti in Noida’s Sector 16. Her father is unemployed, and her mother is the sole bread earner, who barely manages to feed the family of six.
In a situation like this, where even basic amenities are a luxury, education was never a priority for Roshni. Until now.
Roshni is one of the 80 underprivileged children chosen to attend a private school and receive quality education under the ‘Open Door’ project.
Started by Shantanu Prakash, founder of Educomp Solutions Limited and The Millennium Schools, the initiative aims to provide underprivileged kids with the same teaching standards, facilities and quality of education provided in private schools.
Speaking exclusively to The Better India, Shantanu, an alumnus of IIM-Ahmedabad, says,
I have been a part of the education industry since the last 30 years. From all my experience, I strongly feel that private schools must shoulder the responsibility of making education a fundamental right. We cannot constantly blame the government. So, we have taken charge to change the narrative of education in India. The Open Door Project is an institutional response by The Millennium Schools to the problem of children outside the education net.
Banking on the existing private education infrastructure, The Millennium Schools, a national chain of K12 schools, are now providing education to children from slums and poor economic backgrounds after school hours.
We are now using our assets and opening our doors to underprivileged children. The faculty of our schools and people from different strata of society will conduct the kids on a purely volunteering basis using the schools’ resources, adds Shantanu.
Launched on April 12 (World Street Children’s Day), the project is currently teaching 80 children from slums and red-light areas in the city.
The goal is to make 9,000 children from classes 3-8 a part of the initiative in the 55 Millennium Schools across the country.
Vijay Laxmi, Principal of Prayas Vidyalaya (run under Open Door Project at The Millennium School, Noida, speaks about the impact of the project. She tells The Better India, “Our volunteer teachers are teaching these students with great passion and commitment. Having good infrastructure makes a big difference. These children are a bit in awe when they first come in, but like all children, they soon adapt. With time, we see no difference between their learning abilities and those who attend the normal school.”
According to the 2011 census, 8.4 crore children in India do not attend school. This is nearly 20 per cent of the age group covered under the Right to Education Act, according to a report in The Times of India. Of the ‘Out of School’ children, 19 per cent are forced to work.
“I believe that a large-scale campaign that enjoys the collective efforts of private schools can help mitigate the crisis of out-of-school kids in India. It is, therefore, a time to seek institutional participation to contribute to this enormous and yet most critical task—of ensuring that there is no child left without an education,” says Shantanu.
Partnering with NGOs like Kat Katha (that works with children of sex workers) and Salaam Baalak Trust (which provides support for street and working children), Shantanu’s team will approach other private schools to implement the Open Door Project.
There are close to 3,000 private schools across the country. If each institution agrees to implement a project like this that imparts education to at least 200 children, then the issue of ‘out-of-school’ kids can be resolved, he concludes.
To know more about the initiative, visit the website.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)