The tragic death of four tiny school children in Mumbai brings to fore once more the terrifying reality of the safety of our children and the alarming conditions prevailing in our cities. The illogical school system compels parents to send their wards to faraway schools. The absence of safe school transport forces then to take recourse to whatever is available and the greed of transporters on the look out for a quick buck makes the journey to school one fraught with danger. A vicious circle no one can truly break.
I have seen many children climb into potential death traps every morning as vans propelled y cooking gas cylinders abound in our city. Little Kiran is one of them. It is true that her family did try the school bus but the route was so long and the stop so far away from her home that they soon fell for the easier option: the school van! It fetched her from her door step and droped back home and was a tad cheaper too!
What alarms me is the way our education system is heading. A safe option is always a neighborhood school and that can only happen if and when the government school system is reinforced and becomes a viable option for a larger segment of society. But sadly it is quite the contrary that is happening as more and more parents are opting for the now mushrooming private schools. Somehow the fact that free education is a constitutional right seems to have been lost in translation.
How many more deaths will it take for us to finally wake up.
Seeing Utpal is always a celebration and I must confess that since he has gone to boarding school I do miss seeing his little face and incredible smile.
Yesterday was a special day as we had to give the first instalment of our land and we all knew that this had to be done by no one else but Utpal. And though it was not PTM day, we made the necessary phone calls and got the required permissions.
We reached the school and as we sat in the reception area we soon saw Utpal strutting down the corridor all bundled up and wearing his stunning smile. Soon it was hugging and cuddling time though I could sense his almost imperceptible unease – he was now a big boy – and stopped immediately.
He sat with us at first a little self conscious as we were surrounded by teachers and staff but to my absolute delight he soon reverted to his old endearing self and asked me what I had brought for him. He smiled with glee when I handed him over his bag of goodies filled with his favourite biscuits and cookies and set about examining his booty. He then opened one packet and after eating one biscuit set off to go and share it with his pals.
Soon it was time to leave and unlike past days when parting was always difficult he waved us a cheery goodbye and set off back to the game he had left to come and meet us. I guess this time I was the one to wipe the corner of my eye but was happy to see that Utpal had settled in his new life.
Little Anisha came visiting. It is always a delight to see her sunshine smile even if it sometimes it takes some time coming. My thought went to just about a year back when we feared for her life that seemed to hold on by a breath.
But children have a way of making up for loss time and little Anisha was always a fighter. Today she looked just like any other little girl all set to start her school life and that is what she had come to do: get admitted in our creche!
It is moments like this that make everything we do worthwhile and give us the courage to carry on in spite of everything.
I wonder what the future hold for this lovely child. I simply know that beautiful morrows await her.
God bless her and walk with her.
India may have its first woman president but it is going to be a long time before the girl child in India gets the same right as her male sibling. What is tragic is that it is often the mother, a girl child herself, who treats her that way.
No mother will ever accept that but one just has to look at things to see the difference. The three kids in the picture are siblings, whereas the boy was dressed warmly as the morning was chilly, the little girls were sent to school in summer frocks.
I wonder why mothers react this way. One would have thought that having suffered similar humiliations themselves they would not perpetrate them and yet it is the mothers who are the real culprits.
This is one of the reasons why the theme selected for the first meeting of the women’s group at the Kamala centre was the girl child and we decided to show Matrubhhomi as we felt that it was one every woman should see particularly in a land where one the one hand women are worshipped but on the other they are used and abused!
Over 15 women attended the meeting and the issue of the girl child was debated with passion and verve. Every one agreed that something had to be done and that the girl child needed to be protected but they also accepted the fact that it would not be an easy task. They all promised to give the matter some thought and come back for the next meeting with ideas for an awareness campaign.
We know it is no mean task as the laws themselves are far from being respected. This came to light the very next day in a glaring manner: a pregnant lady, mother of two girls came to our centre asking us to keep her daughters till late evening as she worked. She also told us that the child she was carrying was yet another girl as had been revealed by an ultrasound she had done recently. Were not sex determination tests banned in our city?
You can share some of the moments of our first women meeting here
Once again we are ready to set sail on a new journey, one whose course is still uncharted but one we know will have safe and bountiful landings. As a rock pile slowly gets transformed into an island of hope, we too have decided not to wait but get going by setting up a trial foster care programme with a handful of children from both our proposed residential projects.
We feel this is necessary as it will enable us to validate what till now was a dream and also assess the problems in situ thus make the course corrections needed. This is crucial and will go a long way in helping us define the selection process for the foster care programme as its success depends on the total commitment of the parents. It will also help us determine the resources needed and test the dedication of the staff.
At present we are thinking of having 2 young adults from the special section and 4 boys for the foster care cum scholarship programme. I would also like to include our little Babli who still dreams of being a police woman but whose family is barely able to feed her!
A flat across our present office will soon be available and we hope to begin this exhilarating journey a month from now and we invite you to travel with us and share each and every moment of it with us through a blog we have simply entitled: let us begin!
It is a unique journey that we hope will enable these kids to break the circle of poverty they live in and would go an living in for long and open for them doors that till now were only for the selected few. One day these children may be doctors, engineers, honchos, artists, administrators and much else. The thought is thrilling and awe inspiring but we know this day will come!