As it rains I think of those children for whom we conducted some vocational training such as art and crafts, handicrafts,cooking, basics of computers etc. This training ended on 17th August. The children live in slums, which are dens of iniquity, alcoholism, sexual abuse, prostitution, you name it. Ironically they are located near a police station.
They study in a school which imparts this kind of para education: Shishu Shiksha Ghar, a place with a tin roof, that is their school, that is their classroom.This school is now functioning with some funds from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan ( SSS). After this training some of the children are put into formal education, one of these children who is around thirteen studies in class one.
Shiksha Ghar is run by Shima Modak, a young social worker and there are three to four teachers to assist her. As I said, the school is a shed, on muddy ground, to reach the locale one has to weave through dirty slums, shops selling wares, people in dirty houses, playing cards outside. And this, outside one of the main thoroughfares of Shillong, considered to be a clean city. The children are offspring of migrant workers from Bihar, Meghalaya, Bengal, Adivasis, Nepalis. To say that they live in inhabitable conditions, is only underlining one part of their story, some of them are victims of sexual abuse. We used to bring them to our computer room every Friday, so that they could pick up some basics, fiddle and dabble with computers.
They are street children, but they are sweet children, straggling unkempt hair, parsimonious clothes, dirty. But they looked to me as beautiful God's creations. Initially they were restless in the 'training' but after two months they looked a trifle happier, they spoke of how they 'learnt' computers, when asked to speak. This was part of a series of such 'training' which we did for such children in collaboration with NGOs. On the last day of the training, I spoke to them, fondled them, shyly they smiled. They ranged from seven to fifteen years. I resolve to do a little more...
But I introspect, what has my education, with a doctoral degree, done to me to help others to be 'educated '? What could 'Vocational Education' mean for such dislocated children, whose daily meals are not assured, whose parents are simply an amorphous part of India's exploited? The parents are labourers carrying burdens of dust on their backs, labour of despicable impoverishment...they are vulnerable, so are their children - vulnerable to rapacious greed and slavery.
Who says that it has been abolished? I stifle a cry. I turn around in my bed, with somnambulism. I dream torrid dreams. It does not rain any longer. It simply pours...