They take baby steps in banking

Children are encouraged to save money

Reserve Bank of India recently said that 10-year-olds can open and operate accounts in banks. But much before the announcement, a bank for the children, by the children and of the children is being run in Ahmedabad.

 Only difference is it is not a registered bank with the authorities concerned. Also, children manage it, withdraw and deposit money in their accounts. The only they know the total assets of this bank. The initiative by  NGO Sarjan was taken to ensure that children get into the habit of  savings.   Children are encouraged to deposit the money in their savings account, even if it is a small amount. Working from a small building in the bylanes of Juhapura in the old city area of Ahmedabad, the bank has been operating for many years now.Now, more children are learning how to operate an account in a bank. Many more are getting interested in saving money to meet their needs and if need be even the requirements of their parents.

Every member of the Children Bank have a pass book and it is updated frequently. Children can withdraw money from their account only after giving reasons and what they intend to do with it. As account holders are children, they need to bring in at least one of their parents to withdraw more than Rs 100. “It is only after parents agree, the account holders are allowed to withdraw more than Rs 100 from their account,’’ says 10-year-old Ayesha, who is also the manager of the bank.
 She says that children withdraw money for buying pencils, erasers and at times notebooks. “It is probably when they want to buy text books or other necessary items that they need more than Rs 50,” says Ayesha. Children can deposit even Rs two in their account. “Children, who come from economically poor background, many a time also have to avail loans to meet their requirement,” says Madina Solanki of Sarjan.She says at the time of opening account, the children take a pledge that the bank will be of some help to them in their difficult days. “The amount deposited by children is generally pocket money. Or sometimes, children  save from the money given by parents for buying foodstuff. So, they should know that if they have to withdraw they have to do that too very cautiously,’’ says Solanki.

She says many account holders are children of daily workers and those who do odd jobs to eke out a living.  She explains that if these children are able to deposit even Rs 10 or Rs 50 it is encouraged by the members.

At present, there are several account holders in the bank and the total deposit now is Rs 19,000. Children say that they do feel proud that they have their own pass book which is updated at the end of every month. “When you see Rs 500 against your name at the end of the month, it encourages you to deposit more by saving more,” said 11-year-old Runaz.  
   She opened her account in this bank when she was a seven-year-old. Ten-year-old Moin Allarakha says that it feels great when he realises that for purchasing a pencil or pencil box he does not have to ask money from his parents. All he needs to do is withdraw from the bank and buy the necessary items.

Another account holder, 12-year-old Sangamat Amreen, says that she had heard about the bank from her friend, who has an account in the bank. “It encouraged me. I would see her go to the bank and draw money to buy notebooks,” says Amreen.She says that children would deposit even Re one or Rs 2 given at home. “If you leave it in the piggy bank at home, you still have the option of pulling it out but by depositing it in the bank, there is an advantage that the money earns interest,’’ said Amreen.

The bank, whose account holders are from the school for dropouts run by the NGO, works on democratic lines. The manager and the cashier are elected through voting held once in two years. 

Account holders cast ballots in the elections and the child getting the maximum number of votes is named the manager and the second placed will end up as the cashier. However, those leaving the school cannot continue as members. It is a strict no for those above 16 years.

Children earn a little interest on money exceeding Rs 500.As there are no commercial transactions, the NGO gives the interest amount from its own funds. “This is basically done to motivate the children to save more,” Solanki says.    

Solanki, who guides children on how to manage the bank, says  they are given training on how the bank functions. Awareness programmes are also held every Saturday. “Through the awareness programmes, children get an idea on how to open an account, manage an account and the advantages of keeping money in the bank and helping parents in their time of need,” says Solanki.

She says that similar awareness programmes are also held for the parents so that they keep giving small amounts to children and encourage them to save for a rainy day.

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