Universal access to quality early childhood education is perhaps the best investment that India can make for our children and our nation's future.
- Draft National Education Policy, 2019, Page 50
What about children of families below the poverty line or underprivileged? Are they not the future of our nation? Should we be apathetic about their learning? How do seasonal migrant workers provide elementary education for their little ones?
Saraswathi Padmanabhan runs Diya Ghar, an NGO for urban India's migrant workers, founded in 2016 with the guiding principle to provide quality education to each child. Being a trained Montessori teacher and Counsellor, Saraswathi has a deep understanding of child development. Saraswathi also holds degrees in accounting, finance, and worked as an auditor in California. During my visit to her Kalkere centre, I met Shivappa.
Shivappa walks up to me and acknowledges me with a smile. We shake hands and wish each other good morning. Meanwhile, his teacher enters the office and lures him back to class. Shivappa is a three-year-old boy, enrolled at Diya Ghar. He has three siblings and is the youngest among them. His father is an alcoholic, and his mother is a daily wage-worker. Shivappa and his siblings spend eight hours a day at Diya Ghar. There are many more children like Shivappa studying at the three centres of Divya Ghar located around Homavuru Lake in Bengaluru.
Shivappa and other children reach Diya Ghar around 8:30 a.m. A school van picks the children from their homes located around the centres. Montessori pedagogy is used to educate children within the age of 3 - 6 years. There are various learning spaces, and children move along with their teachers learning early literacy and numeracy skills. During the afternoon, children have art and craft, playtime and music and movement sessions. Children eat a healthy and nutritious meal- porridge and fruit for breakfast, different meals for lunch, and milk and snacks in the evening.
How different would Shivappa's life be, if not enrolled at Diya Ghar? These are the little likelihood:
1. Collecting garbage
2. Begging on the roads
3. Doing odd jobs at the construction site
4. Squandering in the cabins or village
At Diya Ghar, children get a safe and hygienic learning environment. Like other preschools, children here have a uniform, portfolio of their work and PTM. Teachers are Montessori trained; enthusiastic and devoted to making a positive impact on the lives of these children. Classrooms are well lit and have ample of learning aids. Saraswathi and her team encounter a string of challenges to provide education to children of migrant workers. Working with migrant communities to make them mindful of the impact of education on the future of their children, itself is a task. The other challenge is getting these kids admitted to a government school for primary education. Most of them belong to seasonal migrant families that do not have appropriate identity proof or even birth certificate. Hopefully, with the new education policy, this will be resolved too.
You too can be a part of this endeavour along with Saraswathi and other members of Diya Ghar. Sponsor a child or donate books, food or stationery materials for these children. Also, give your time to the centre, teaching these kids and bringing a positive change in their lives.
Know more about Diya Ghar and how you can be a part of this remarkable journey by visiting their website www.diyaghar.org