One of the best ways to protect children from dangers like trafficking, child labor, and early marriage is to educate them, keeping them in school rather than on the streets. In India, World Vision's drop-in centers are designed to do just that: opening the door to mainstream schools.
Here are the stories of two children – Naina, 7, and Ankit, 6 – who found their way into formal education through these drop-in centers.
Life was not easy for Naina and her family. Naina’s father traded her and her siblings for a new life and new family in Delhi. Abandoned and left to take care of six children, Naina’s mother, Shoba Devi, had nowhere to go except for her parent’s home in the slum settlements of Patna.
With survival being their priority, Shoba started working as a casual laborer. Her children’s education didn’t take precedence in Naina’s home. Naina was free to run her life and do what she wanted.
"She used to say 'I don’t need to go school now. I will go to school when I am big.’ Such children have no direction in life, as there is no one to guide them,'" says Abul Jais, a World Vision volunteer.
When World Vision initiated a drop-in center nearby, children were counseled about the importance of education and encouraged to join the center.
Naina was one of them.
To help with the family’s income, World Vision enrolled Naina’s mom, Shoba, in a six-month cutting and tailoring course.
Now she is able to work from home and earn while taking care of her children. She is now confident that she can provide for her family without her husband supporting her.
"Before World Vision came, the children just roamed around and never went to school,” says Rukmini Devi, Naina’s grandmother. “Education was not given importance. Children didn’t know how to hold a pencil. Their guardians just left them unattended and went off to work. But now, after the drop-in center was started, things have changed. The World Vision volunteers take special care in gathering these children, counseling them, and providing basic education. The children get good knowledge and then World Vision enrolls them in school. They encourage the poor and provide means of employment for those who are struggling to find sustainable jobs. They empower women. There is relief in our families and community after World Vision has come."
For seven-year-old Naina, education now is very important.
"If this center was not there, I wouldn’t be able to study. When I become big, I will be a doctor," she says.
World Vision volunteers first spotted Ankit, now six, when they were conducting a survey of the Patna junction area of how many children did not attend formal school. Ankit was five then. He used to roam around the streets aimlessly and never understood the importance of education.
Working as a fruit seller, his father, Bitoo Kumar, made just enough money to survive. Education took a back seat in their house. Even if Ankit’s parents wanted him to go to school, they couldn’t afford to provide study material, which was a pre-requisite for children attending formal school.
"When we first saw Ankit, he was five and was not attending school. Survival and feeding their stomach was of prime importance for his family. Education wasn’t a priority. Even if the family wanted to send Ankit to school. They had no money to provide study material like books, dress, and stationery," says Sanjeev, a World Vision volunteer.
After extensive counseling, Ankit started coming to the drop-in center initiated by World Vision. Not used to sitting in a classroom for long durations, he initially ran out many times. But once play material became part of the drop-in center, Ankit couldn’t resist staying away. One hour every day was designated to playing games like carom board and ball games. Happy and motivated, Ankit has started coming regularly to the center to learn basics.
World Vision volunteers have also mainstreamed him into formal school. He is now studying in Grade 1.
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Currently, the drop-in center has enrolled 278 vulnerable children – mostly school drop outs, child laborers, street children, runaways, and orphans – into formal schools.
These centers also serve as a launching pad for longer interventions like de-addiction services, vocational training, and health-care. World Vision provides study materials for the children to give them an extra push into education, as most of the families cannot afford these supplies.
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