The Ruchika Social Service Organization is dedicated to advancing the opportunities of under-privileged children through education. RSSO, targets mostly street children, child laborers, and children of impoverished families living in the slums of Bhubaneswar, Orissa. It provides basic literacy, non-formal education, vocational training, nutrition, medical treatment, & emergency assistance to over 4,000 children and their families.
It was a journey that began, as most journeys in India do, on the railway platform… when early one morning, together with an intrepid spirit in the person of a young PTI, we began telling stories to vagrant children on the platform.
Over the years, these sessions became schools conducted within chalked boundaries in a corner of the platform, song and dance sessions amidst throngs of passengers, a supplementary nutrition program during school hours, personal hygiene and medical care for the children, advocacy among the children’s families and then the mainstreaming of these children into conventional schools.
Today I am asked to draw conclusions from these journeys, journeys with a host of halting and nervous steps, numerous wrong turnings and several blind alleys. So the conclusions, if such they be, are rather in the nature of empirical hind- sights, subjective and relevant only to our experience.
The three most significant of these can be summarized thus…
Schools for working children: should have absolutely ZERO barriers, whether physical ( e.g. walls) or of day to day organization ( e.g. Of rules and regulations); and should require MINIMAL disruption of the children’s existing routines. i.e. schooling in their space, their time, according to methods and with curriculum closely related to their life-experience.
The schooling program: should incorporate transition from the Platform School with its informal, activity oriented format , to Mainstream Schools’ traditional structured methods of teaching. For this to be successful, the transition in teaching methods of the informal school to the formal school should be gradual. AND there should be a sponsorship program thereafter which incorporates provision of books, uniforms and continuing monitoring cum counseling relating to the child’s progress in the mainstream school.
For older children: who are unable or unwilling to enter into mainstream schools, the best school would be a program of vocational training equipping them for entry into the workforce. Their entry into the earning fraternity becomes a visible symbol for others to emulate and and will encourage other working children to at least try going to school.
As such, RSSO has set up an extensive network of schools, vocational training programs, shelters, non-formal education centers, crèches, and a crisis helpline, all with the aim to assist children in claiming their right to education.
In all its activities, RSSO recognizes and understands the totality of the lives of the children it serves. Acknowledging that the complex demands of simple survival often preclude a child’s ability to attend regular school, RSSO offers a style of non-formal schooling that takes these issues into account, making education accessible, meaningful, and significant for even the most deprived child.
Through its innovative and varied programs, Ruchika seeks to:
- Provide all children with a joyful and creative school atmosphere that incorporates education and skills relevant to a meaningful and dignified existence.
- Equip children with the knowledge necessary to become active participants and positive contributors to their communities
- Create a society free of child labor, abuse, destitution, exploitation and abandonment.
…and you can help make this a reality.