Amidst the flurry of charitable trusts and non-governmental organizations – there is a rather strange breed of social initiatives thriving these days. These are not run by full time activists or social workers but by ordinary citizens like you and me- doing full time jobs and shouldering other family responsibilities.
One such couple in Bangalore – Lalitha and Jayaseelan are running a students’ study center in Cox Town in Bangalore for the wards of the slum dwellers nearby. They are normal people, with abnormal will.
The journey began 25 years ago when, while going to office, Lalitha spotted a little girl outside the Government Model Primary School on the Mosque Road. Lalitha used to see her daily, a tiny being with helplessness in her eyes. Out of curiosity, she spoke to her and asked her why her face was so glum. ‘I don’t have enough to eat’, the little girl replied.
Many children in government schools do not get adequate time and resources to study. So Lalitha started an evening study centre for the girls to come and study.
Simple problem! Lalitha began to get her two idlis everyday. It was then that she realized that almost all the students of the school have the same problem, especially the girls. Determined as she is, she got together a few of her friends from the local ladies club and began organizing a get-together for the students on Sunday afternoons. That was the only day in the entire week when she could manage time out from her work and family of husband and two school-going kids, but she made sure she did it.
Absence of an appropriate study environment at and beyond school is cited to be an important reason for improper education of a child. This is especially true of the majority of children studying in government schools whose home conditions do not provide them with adequate time and resources to study. Lalitha realised this by her interactions with children and their parents and started an evening study centre for the girls to come and study.
"Some of these students are very bright. They don’t need tuitions or coaching, all they need is a place to study," says Jayaseelan. There are 29 students who come daily from 4 pm till 8.30 pm at the study center today. Most of them belong to migrant families who work as hawkers or domestic helps. The couple mobilises funds from well wishers and friends for paying school fees for deserving students. They also arrange healthy snacks for kids coming to the evening classes.
With a monthly investment of Rs 200 per student, the couple has achieved almost 100% examination results for these students.
Lalitha still religiously follows the sunday afternoon ritual of playing and motivating the kids at the Model Primary School. I asked her whether it was difficult to convince the parents about sending the girls to study and she smiles, "Well, as I told you, I am crazy. When I was young, I used to go to these slums with two or three of my friends and we used to talk and counsel these parents on a number of issues. This way, we had made quite a rapport with them. So they were more than willing to send their wards here."
With a monthly investment of Rs 200 per student, the couple has achieved almost 100% examination results for these students. Although an important yardstick to measure performance, examination result is not the only measure of the success of the initiative. It has opened up new hope for some children.
Ranjana was four when her father murdered her mother and ran away. She and her one-year-old sister, Kavya were brought up by her grand parents. Ranjana started studying with Lalitha some years back and passed the Higher Secondary Examination with distinction. "Initially, Ranjana was in a state of shock. She never spoke to anyone. Now, she has become more confident and enthusiastic. These kids go through a tough time", Lalitha says, with hope and fondness.
The Kannada poet D V Gundappa mentions ‘Vanasuma’ in one of his poems as a flower in the wilderness who wishes to serve the world with its fragrance, without getting noticed. True to the name, the determined couple dedicatedly serve in anonymity. ⊕
In case you wish to know more or donate, please contact Lalitha Jayaseelan on 9844441700
Thanks Pramod. You can find some more stories on India Together (here’s the link to one- http://www.indiatogether.org/2011/may/soc-wbpro.htm )
Excellent article. Does Ms. Choudhary have a website where she has development stories like these? Great work by the Bangalore couple. Wish more people emulate them than just sitting in hunger strikes.