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Child workers, dropouts to get taste of fun learning 

By Antara Bose

Jamshedpur: Ravi Lohar, 11, who works in a dhaba in steel city Jamshedpur, had first snorted when he heard about going to school. “Why waste time in school when I can earn money?” the child who stays in a slum near Hind Ashram, Burmamines, had said.

But, after an hour at the trial run of an innovative School on Wheels in February end, Ravi changed his mind. ” Yeh kar saktein hain (I can try this),” he said.

On the lines of health on wheels, smile train and other mobile initiatives that reach the less fortunate on their doorstep, a corporate venture has been conceived to wheel a school to slum children in and around Jamshedpur.

Targeted at children who have never been to school or dropouts, School on Wheels will formally start mid March. But, its trial run has already been done in Adityapur near Antoday Ashram and in two slums of Burmamines, Jamshedpur.

Supported by Tata Motors Limited (TML) Drivelines and co-ordinated by Shiksha Prasar Kendra, the social wing of Tata Motors, city-based organization People for Change will implement the concept to make schooling fun for poor urban children between the ages of five and 12.

“The objective is to reach students personally, categorize them according to their age group, bridge the gap through activities and put them in mainstream schools,” said Bhaskar Choudhry, a member of People for Change.

The School on Wheels bus, which has a capacity to accommodate 35 children (seats and floor), will not be the usual classroom. The bus has an LED, a mini library, art and craft materials, books, notebooks and stationery.

Children who have tough lives as laborers, domestic help, rag-pickers and the like, will be made interested in a new world of interactive stories, drawing, painting, movies and games. Everyday, between Monday and Friday, the mobile school will run in two shifts two-and-a-half hours.

Right now, social workers are helping People for Change identify dropouts. People for Change volunteers are going to the children and parents to counsel them why schooling is a good idea.

“Since the government wants 100 per cent enrolment (of all children) in schools, we are trying to make studies interesting for those in slums who have tough lives and no role model who can inspire them to study. Many children confessed they found regular (government) schools mundane,” Choudhry added.

State government’s Pankh project, launched in East Singhbhum on January 31, aims to make students take interest in studies through activities but School on Wheels is a step ahead, he added. “The curriculum has been designed to ensure that poor children are lured to come to the mobile school and learn new things through a different pedagogy,” Choudhry said.


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