At a time when several organisations are reaching out to economically weaker sections to improve the education of children, an NGO is doing whatever little it can, focusing on two schools in Gurgaon.
The idea of establishing the NGO, Shakuntalam, was conceived when 59-year-old Nalini Bhargava, an artist, saw a group of slum children eagerly looking at children in uniform boarding a schoolbus.
“I was on a morning walk and saw a four-year-old girl and her little brother wistfully watching children in school uniform boarding a schoolbus. On enquiring, I realised that these two kids were eager to go to school, but circumstances prevented them from being able to pursue it. I went on to meet their parents who were daily wage labourers,” Bhargava said.
With crowdfunding, Bhargava managed to start the NGO. The project started with two schools known as Shakuntalam Shiksha Kendra in Rajeev Nagar and Sector 23. As many as 110 children attend these schools where they are taught life skills and personal hygiene, and reading, writing lessons before they can join regular schools.
Bhargava also generates funds by selling her paintings.
Having helped more than 14 children join private and government schools, Shakuntalam provides financial assistance to students till they complete their schooling.
“The major challenge we face is the irregularity in attendance. There are times when we have only 30-35 kids in the schools and there are also few months when we have more than 110 children coming to school.”
There are only 40% students who are regular and their parents are serious about giving them education.
Meenakshi Sen, a student who joined the school at the age of 16, passed her class 10 open school exam with 77%. Now, she takes tuitions for other underprivileged children and she’s preparing to join a bachelor’s course.