Act Now - School Chalo

  • Shilpy Arora / FG
  • India
  • Oct 25, 2013


Latika, 13, had not even dreamt that she would go to school – partly because the nearest government school was very far. She used to earn a living as a rag picker in the City. Today she studies in the Sun City Government Primary School, thanks to the safe transport provided by the Action Centre for Transformation (ACT). “We are a family of seven members – me, my husband and five children. Survival in the City is extremely difficult. Latika has to work to support the family. Being a girl, she is not permitted to travel alone, be it for her education or any other purpose,” says Latika’s mother, a resident of Ghata Village. At school, Latika is beginning to get a sense of direction on her further studies and employment opportunities. Her shining eyes now carry the hope of a better and more secure life.

ACT’s ‘Aao School Chalen’ initiative has helped over 40 children from similar backgrounds to get admission in government schools. The NGO has been helping the urban and rural poor to receive such education and earn a living. “Our City has a huge population of migrants, who come in search of livelihood and a better standard of living. They live in make-shift temporary tents provided by some agent on rent. As both the parents are engaged in work, the children are often left wandering in the streets. Being new to the City, the parents are also scared to send their children to (govt) schools, which are normally not located anywhere near the slums/villages. We realised that the major issue is the lack of safe transport, and so we arranged for it - free,” says Nilanjana, Founder, ACT.

Upset with the disparities that exist between the privileged and under-privileged children in the City, Nilanjana laid the foundation of ACT in 2010. A qualified professional in Rural Management, she visited many villages, had continuous dialogue with the villagers and conducted research on various development issues. She then formed the NGO, to help overcome the challenges faced by poor children – especially through education. Nilanjana believes that concentrating attention on one village or slum for a sufficiently long period is important, rather than moving on to new locations year after year. “We need to help at least two generations, so that the families become self-dependent. We should make them aware of the outer world, so that they can have better earning options. We should train them to become self-sufficient,” she says. ACT identified Ghata Village to begin with and is now running projects in Bandhwadi also


Community Library in Bandhwadi

Most of the students in government schools drop out after the eighth standard, as they then have to pay for books and other stationary. To combat this, ACT has created a Village Library, to provide children access to study material - for free. The Library offers textbooks, story books and stationary, which are necessary to prepare for the standardized exams. Besides, the NGO seeks the active involvement of parents. It organizes quarterly Parent-Teacher meetings. The aim is to develop a community-managed library for the poor children and youth. Children who don’t go to school also visit the Library. “It is unfortunate that, while being so close to the Millennium City, some children don’t have access to basic reading material. Through the Community Library, we want to offer them a better way to spend their time,” feels Nilanjana.


Transformation through Trash

In 2010, when Nilanjana called on big corporates to seek help for her projects, she didn’t get a good response. She then asked the companies to give their old newspapers to ACT. “We didn’t have money to set up a recycling plant and so we decided to make simple handicraft items with the newspapers. Today more than 30 women are earning a living by making these items,” says Nilanjana. Interestingly, the manufacturing of handicrafts doesn’t need any electricity and the products are eco-friendly. Ranging from lampshades to coffee tables and jewellery, the rural women craft beautiful items with the help of these newspapers. Some of the products are exhibited in galleries too. “Whenever a person buys an up-cycled product, he/she not only contributes towards the development activities of ACT, but also helps save the environment,” smiles Karuna, a resident of Bandhwadi Village. A trained handicraft artisan, she has recently been invited by The Banyan Tree World School to participate in a seminar, to educate urban children on handicraft manufacturing. Like Karuna, over 10 rural women are providing handicrafts training in other villages. With their earnings they can now afford the school expenses on a regular basis

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