Till date, I have shared the on goings of Project Why based on what I saw, or what my staff shared or what well wishers, supporters and funders wrote in reports, blogs or on social networks. Some how it never cross my mind to get the children to share their thoughts. And yet they are the ones who should have been given that opportunity. So I was delighted when the coordinator of our women centre decided to give pen and paper to students and ask them to write what they felt. All teachers were asked to leave the premise and the security guard and housekeeper where the ones supervising the exercise.
I was given a report and I would like to share with you Project Why through the eyes of those who matter most. The children participating were from class III to IX.
One child thought that Pwhy was great because it has toilets, drinking water and free education. Another one was touched by the fact that the organisation helped her parents when they had lost their jobs and were desperate and also because many volunteers come to the Project and she can talk to them in English and improve her knowledge. A young class V girl likes Project Why because it does not make a difference between boys and girls and she loves the Sunday classes when all kids come together. A little girl likes the Saturday hand washing and a young boy likes the fact that there are no more than 15 students per class. For some students what makes Pwhy special is the dancing, singing and art activities, for others it is the fact that teachers are patient and do not beat children. Some like the fact that there is a big library with good books and that there are spoken English classes. And many simply felt that pwhy gave them an enabling environment to study in all seasons.
Some kids like the camaraderie that exists in the Project Why and that all children are treated equally, irrespective of their caste or creed. One class IX student candidly admits that when he came to Pwhy he was not good at studies but that now he has improved a lot. A class VII student appreciated the photography workshop and the fact that he and his friends are given cameras to take pictures regularly.
Many students appreciated the fact that they were not chastised for their bad habits. On the contrary teachers took time to understand their problems and help them get over their bad habit. Teachers were more like friends and mentors and went out of their way to help students.
And a class VII student simply said that Project Why is like her family.
To many, all these statements may seem innocuous and commonplace, simple ramblings of students wanting to say the right thing. But it is not so. When I read them I felt overwhelmed and humbled. These seemingly anodyne words actually reveal the reality of children who are not understood and appreciated by the adults in their world, be it their parents or school teachers and for whom pwhy is the support they so need. A place where they are considered as individuals who matter. The words also reveal how things that are taken for granted by the likes of us, are luxury to urban slum kids be it a clean toilet, drinking water or the pleasure of washing one’s hands. The thoughts shared by these children go along way in proving that we have failed as a society in ensuring that all children what is rightfully theirs.
The question I ask myself is: are we doing enough?