Little Sooraj picks some of his old books from the uneven rack of a dingy shanty and carefully places them in a torn bag stitched disorderly. Putting his shoes on, he looks at himself in the broken mirror and combs his oily hair accurately – just like he was taught in school. He then holds the fingers of his young sister, Roohi, and walk in a slow, relaxed manner through the stinking lanes towards a school where he would be learning the names of fruits today.
As he crosses the road and enters the premises of Poorna Prajna layout in Bengaluru, Karnataka, he greets morning wishes to the watchman and quietly enters Anjaneya Temple and sits on the mat in his class. This class is unlike others where children sit on the benches. The children here have no proper uniform and there is no bulletin board or four walls. It is just a small school where children like Sooraj study.
The inception of this school dates back to January 2009 when Latha Rao had come to look for apartments in Bengaluru to start her new life with her family. As the flats were under construction, she roamed around the entire area to check the surroundings where she saw few children in dishevelled condition playing in the cement.
This whole sight intrigued and ached Latha who, while speaking to The Logical Indian she said, “The very sight made me remorseful and thankful for the comfortable life my children and I lead. This was the triggering point where I realised that I would come back and do something for the children. Having volunteered in other schools, I discussed with my friends who would volunteer with me in Youth For Seva (YFS) organisation.”
Delighted to know Latha’s intention, YFS extended their hands and helped her start the school. This school has been running for the last eight years and hundreds of students have attended it. The slight difference here is that kids wear torn uniforms and they are not escorted by their parents or school bus.
“I quit my career as a software engineer and got into teaching street school children through Youth For Seva. The workers here have migrated from tribal areas and villages of North Karnataka, and they live in the city as long as the work demands. It is the mindset of the parents who have prompted me to be regular in running this school. The school starts at sharp 10 AM and children sit on the mat, and we teach them. The blackboard is propped up on a tree trunk and sometimes hangs on the wall, and the school caters to construction workers’ children.”
The school doesn’t charge any fee and it also doesn’t trouble parents as students are allowed to escort their siblings. There are three volunteers and one regular teacher who engages children in music, dance, and dramatics. They also teach the children some basic Kannada, English, and Mathematics. Children make every effort to come in neat and clean dresses and they attend the classes regularly. “I would not have been able to do this without the cooperation of my students, their parents, and many others – especially my friend Roopa, who is always there for me and has been volunteering in the school for almost seven years now.”
Besides providing education, the school also gives mid-day meals to the children (but it had been interrupted). Latha also ensures that these kids continue their education in formal schools to have bright future. She contacts the government schools in the area and tries to enrol the students for formal education.
When asked about an anecdote that touched her life, she says,“It has been eight years since the inception of this school, and I have seen so many remarkable changes. Few of the students who enrolled themselves in Diploma courses are working and earning a fair income. The motive is to teach them so that they acquire good jobs and take care of their family.”
So far, Latha and her team have helped more than 80 students admit in regular government schools.
The Logical Indian salutes Latha Rao for helping underprivileged children attain education. We hope that many more people will come forward and, like her, take the responsibility of providing education to the children of our country.