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Monday, 31 August 2009

Education Helping underprivileged childrena break artificial barriers in Bangalore

Education Helping underprivileged childrena break artificial barriers in Bangalore
31 August 2009
Forty years in the US did not make them forget their roots. And they came back to light a thousand lamps of hope.

Meet T V Ramakrishna and his wife Vijayalakshmi, founders of the Sahasra Deepika Institute for Education, which operates from a 4-acre plot off Bannerghatta Road. The institute provides a home and education to children who would otherwise end up on the streets.

"They are like our mother, father and God," says Varun, 16, who came here from Kottanur Dinne in 2001. He is perhaps the eldest among 52 boys and girls who have found a new meaning of life here.

"We take children without parents or those who have single or negligent parents. Quite often, mothers who work as domestic help have to leave their children when they go for work. Eventually, the child ends up on the streets. If you give them money or food, they are back for more. But education is one thing they will carry for the rest of their lives," says Ramakrishna, who hails from a village in Kolar. The children lovingly call the couple `Mataji' and `Pitaji'.

The institute was set up as a residential school in 1998. Now, the main building has a hostel, library and computer lab. Diksha High, a school on the same property, teaches these children till Class V, after which they are sent to nearby Kannada- or English-medium schools, depending on the child's interest.

The couple spends a lot of time travelling across the state, and even neighbouring ones, to look for those who need them. They usually approach anganwadis, from where children are sourced. "We once went to a couple of slums in Bangalore. But there wasn't much cooperation for various reasons... We are more considerate toward single mothers, but there is no profiling based on language, caste or religion," adds Ramakrishna.

From here, the institute plans to send the academically-oriented ones to college. For the rest, there are arrangements with industries for vocational training.

The founders are wary of people calling the place an orphanage as people get a different picture by the word one use. Hence, it is called an institute.

A gardener, cook, watchman, house-mothers and much-needed volunteers assist the couple. Employees of some software firms take time off on Sundays to interact with the children.

Danny Khumlo from Infosys teaches the children sports (volleyball) and even songs such as `Country Roads' by John Denver. "We are particular that they know English to be able to compete with others. Danny has been especially valuable because we lacked such co-curricular activities earlier," says Vijayalakshmi.

"These are activities close to my heart and it feels awesome to spend time with the children. It helps me forget my blues. The kids are quick learners. They already have a list of songs and we are waiting for an event to showcase their skills. The senior boys have picked up volleyball really well," says Danny.

Most of the kids interact in English. "We teach them to love books. When they face a problem, they know where to go instead of approaching one of us," says Rupali, another volunteer.

"In fact, the children enjoy the place so much that they are reluctant to go home every summer. I enjoy the garden, and games like kabaddi and kho-kho," says Suma, 14, from Chitradurga.

"I know how the uneducated are ignored. If everyone supports at least one such child, there would be much more development in this country. These kids are not inferior. They just need to be put in the right environment to be productive citizens," says Ramakrishna.

The institute also has an outreach programme that aims to help similarly-placed children in government schools. "The effort is not without pains. But it's the spirit that counts. By God's grace, we have come a long way," says Vijayalakshmi.

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