Igniting young minds
Statistics affirm that there are about 100 million children who live on the streets in our country today. Sans any respite, most of them starve, dwell in unhygienic conditions and bear the burden of virtually parenting their siblings. Education or brush with technology is unthinkable.
But for a Delhi-based NGO, Katha, the status quo wouldn't have ever changed, at least in the Govind Puri slum cluster of south Delhi. Katha, which has stemmed from the renowned publishing house with the same name, had with the initative of Geeta Dharmarajan kick-started a literacy project, It started with just five children in the slums of Govind Puri way back in 1988. In a small setting at Sarvodaya Enclave three months back, the NGO gave shape to Intel's first Computer Clubhouse in the Asia-Pacific region besides giving a reason to the street and slum kids to smile. Not that they no longer feel the need to go and beg for alms or do nitty-gritty jobs at the traffic junctions, the enticement of a new technology, is helping hold their steps back.
The rendezvous with computers for these children starts every morning and afternoon, when the vans known as the 'Tamasha Road Vans (TRS) collect them from areas such as INA, RK Puram, Hauz Rani and Saket. Says coordinator Rajesh, Exploring various keys of the keyboard, their functions fascinated these children. With the passing days, they have learnt to draw and play on the computer and in the process have become familiar with many things including words. From the initial ''I can't' the proposition has changed to 'I can', they have knocked the T. More than 157 kids have visited the computer club and 50 have become regular. Besides divulging in Word programs, movie software and games, the children upto the age of 12 years, have transgresses to browsing the net.
But as it goes, the start is always a Herculean task and the computer club also found it difficult to attract and retain the children initially.
Starting from 10 children in the first month, the count increased. "It is not always easy to convince a child, more so if the child happens to be a breadwinner. These children have never been to a school so they are quite reluctant to follow a routine and use their thinking power. But when they come here, get acquainted with the computers and experience the thrill of operating one, they became quite regular. In fact, lately the numbers have increased to the extent that the TRS became jam-packed and children who were left out started running after it," adds Rajesh.
A spin-off of this set-up being that these children observing the well-dressed people doing rounds of the place have suddenly becomes conscious and aware of their own.
Amrita Talwar of Katha says, "They have become hygiene conscious and want to take a bath, comb their hair. In the long run, this exposure will instil lifelong learning skills in them, who are oblivious to such mannerisms."