Overcoming the lack of education in slum children requires an innovative approach. The non-formal classroom can become attractive for these kids with green open spaces, practical timings, and something thrown in for the mothers and the community.
Every child deserves the best. Some get it on a platter, while others are not that fortunate. They are unaware, afraid, reluctant, restricted, or shy. It is upon the fortunate ones to go out of their way to light lamps of new opportunity in each young life. Here are seven ways we can bring the under-served on board:
Open green spaces
Open spaces, with a clean and green environment, are naturally attractive, inspiring, and soothing. Aravindam volunteers scout for community spaces like temples and panchayat lands where vacant rooms and grounds can be put to good use. Volunteers repair and paint existing rooms and discarded furniture. Extensive planting of flowering shrubs, trees and grasses is an essential prerequisite.
Children, women and youth of the community are actively involved in the work, sharing moments, meals, singing, and fun. As the spaces develop, so do the stake holders. Future beneficiaries join hands, local entrepreneurial people—especially the women—often take charge, and the centre runs virtually on auto-pilot.
Reading is still an attractive occupation for children, provided the right mix of books. Each Aravindam Foundation centre starts with a library of picture books and cartoon-based historical, mythological, and inspirational storybooks gathered from donors. Children are naturally inquisitive, and quickly lap up any such opportunity. Some engrossing storytelling, reading, and singing sessions in the library get the tempo going.
Effective time/schedule management
Slum children often take up household or other chores to help the family. It is imperative to time their visit for non-formal education for least disruption to this need. 3-5 PM is usually a good time. It takes some cajoling initially, but soon enough, the advantages become visible, and the children themselves become agents of change.
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Making learning exciting
Getting children to an exciting afternoon of non-formal learning enhances confidence and personality, creating a motivational ripple effect. This propels the supported children, and also their unsupported peers, to attend regular school in the morning.
Once a month, birthday celebrations are organised for all children born in that month. These are sponsored by volunteers or donors whose birthday falls in the same month.
Cultural events, aligned to existing festivals, become a platform for children to proudly display their talents to the community. The community in turn becomes the owner, custodian, and propeller with its own identity stake to help the centre in its objectives.
It is often easier to motivate the mothers to bring their children to the classroom if there is something for them too. Mothers benefit greatly from vocational training (stitching, salon, arts & crafts, etc.), entrepreneurship basics (display, marketing, basic accounts, etc.), and support in selling their product(s) at better value.
You can help Aravindam create online and field-based career support for under-served children, and sustain women. To know more, contact the Foundation via email.