Literacy in parks, museums

Literacy in parks, museums

Thanks to outdated beliefs, the right of education is stolen from many under-privileged kids. Bal Utsav, an NGO, is working tirelessly to ensure that education reaches every little one, says Sneha Saloni.

Dressed in neat uniforms and standing on a podium to make their voices heard is no longer a distant dream for thousands of children belonging to the marginalised strata of society. Their dreams are now being transformed into reality thanks to Bal Utsav – a non-profit, non-partisan professional organisation that provides learning opportunities for under-privileged children who only dream of school.

Bal Utsav services are for children between the ages of 3-18 years, through in-school and community-based interventions. “Amid all the celebrations over the Right to Education (RTE) being implemented, there is an elephant in the room that nobody is talking about. It’s called the dropout rate. There is a huge need to provide education to every child,” says the founder Ramesh Balasundaram.

Many roles

The education initiatives of Bal Utsav include a museum school, education for the children of construction workers, schools for tribal children, training teachers in special skills, bringing about effective parenting sessions and after-school support classes.

The museum school, one of the projects of Bal Utsav, is an initiative of Child Empowerment Foundation India (CEFI), a non-profit organisation. It functions from the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum as well as from Cubbon Park. Children are taught alphabet, mathematics and other basics in the sprawling gardens of Cubbon Park.

“We chose a museum because they were originally meant to be centres of learning, unlike the venues of entertainment which they have been reduced to today,” says Ramesh.

The museum school has embraced a practical, hands-on approach to teaching. “Learning doesn’t necessarily happen in schools. We have aped the western model of education to an extent where we find it difficult to translate the unknown into known variables, because of which, learning becomes a time-consuming and complicated process. If you ask a regular school-going child questions like what appears first during a solar eclipse, the Sun, Earth or Moon, or what is the difference between concave and convex lens, they might take time to comprehend the question and give an answer. This is why we have
developed modules that make learning easier,” says Ramesh.

Hugely inspired by the gurukul model of teaching, children are taught under the trees, schooled inside the museums and are imparted skills to make them educated and employable. The museum school blends education and equality while celebrating childhood by providing an unique platform to the children of city’s slum dwellers and construction labourers.

Rural presence

The school operates five days a week, four hours a day from Tuesday to Saturday. All children attending the museum school are provided with free transport. 47 children from the museum school were sent to mainstream schools in 2013.

Bal Utsav also works for the upliftment of tribals and other deprived in rural
India by providing basic education to their children and giving the villagers health care, education and basic support.

The first four centres for the tribal children were located in and around the Nilgiri Mountains, in Coonoor. Each centre has a teacher who is trained by special trainers. They are trained to bring children into schools through cultural action and linguistic identity. Language teachers work as the cultural workers for the community. Here, the NGO works as a bridge between the school and the community. 

Bal Utsav runs 13 schools catering to different needs of children from a variety of backgrounds. These include schools for children from urban slums and ragpickers, children of migrant labourers, tribal children in Coonoor and out-of-school children operating from the government school campus at Kudlu.

Through their school for construction workers’children across various locations, they provide education through their uniquely designed programmes so that these children have an opportunity to be a part of the educated society.

A model of comprehensive child care has been developed to work in close partnership with parents, the construction industry, labour communities, government agencies and partner organisations to promote education of such children.

You can contact Bal Utsav at No.785, 2nd cross, Ayappa Layout, Munnekolalu, Marathahalli or celebrate@balutsav.org.

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