Saturday, January 29, 2011

Srijana & Rajesh

Newly Elected Office Bearers
We decided in the second week of january, that the time was right to conduct elections in the school. Koseli’s senior children had started exhibiting a sense of respnsibility and a keen interest in the activities of the school. 

Audience listening intently to the campaigners
In the past few months, the school has evolved quite a bit and my role in managing day to day activities has gone down considerably.  From day one we have been trying to establish systems which took almost 8-9 months to show some significant results. The "Teachers Council" manages almost all the key affairs of the school. 
The working team gradually grew in size & responsibilities and now with the inclusion of children we suddenly felt rich in the number of working hands we had. All important issues were now discussed among the teachers and the senior students, opinions were sought and only then decisions were taken. It has been a wonderful learning experience for all of us so far.

The nominations were filed on 14th Jan. During the campaigning week the students brought up four important issues:
discipline and cleanliness in the premises
english speaking environment in the school
importance of education and 
encouraging their friends to come to school every day. 

They gave speeches in the assembly everyday outlining the issues they felt were most important to them. We also had an opinion poll and the results were very close to the final results.

A student Voting
The voting went on smoothly with a 100% turnout of voters. I can very confidently say that it was one of the most fair election conducted in the world. Srijana & Rajesh were elected as headgirl & headboy and Manju & Paras as their deputies respectively. Our best wishes are with these children. They are already showing keen interest in their work. 
Creative English volunteer, Ritu More
Celebrating victory with sweets
It is a great achievement for all of us in our small own way that we have been able to sow the seeds of democratic values in Koseli, while democracy is still waiting at the entrance gate of our country._________________________________________________________________________________________________
Srijana is 14 years old and studies in class six. She stays in the Sukhumwasi slum. Her father works as labourer at the airport.   Including her, there are 5 members in the family. Her brother, Suresh also a student in Koseli is fighting with blood cancer. She loves to dance. She wants to be an airhostess when she grows up as she is always intrigued by the flying planes. She thinks the best thing about Koseli is the teachers. She also likes the education and environment of the school. As the Head Girl she would like to bring more discipline in the school.

Rajesh is also 14 years old and a student of class six. His father is a mason and mother works as a daily wage labourer on construction sites. He has a younger sister, who, his mother leaves at a foster care centre run by an NGO when she goes out to work. Rajesh wants to be a famous man when he grows up, though he is not clear about his chosen field but he thinks it has to be related to academics. His biggest wish is to remain happy in all circumstances. He was pulled out of a regular school due to poverty, then for a couple of years he went to a school which he didn’t like much. What he loves most about Koseli is that there are enough books and stationery for all the children which they constantly fell short of in his previous school. The teachers are helpful and all their needs are taken care of. As the Head Boy he would like to improve the english speaking environment of the school.

We wish our new team all the very best in their endeavours!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


It was a beautiful sunny December morning, when I had my first heart to heart chat with Devi, Namuna, Elisa, Elija, Akash, Kumar, Sameer, and others. This was my first interaction with the beggar kids from the Pashupati Temple area and I realized that each of them had an identity and a distinct personality. Their lives and their stories shocked me and I was convinced that Bollywood films were not just imaginary concepts but based on real lives. For all these children ranging between 4 to 14 begging, beating, stealing and drug addiction were ways of survival. "Survival of the fittest" is still very much a valid concept in their lives.

And I don’t blame the kids, they sleep under the open sky when the temperature is hovering around zero degrees. They go hungry for 15-18 hours at a stretch if they miss the food being distributed by Annapurna Bhandar. 

The income from begging is mostly enough to buy some glue, which acts as cure for all other issues. Elisa says, “when we sniff glue, we see stars dancing in front of our eyes, we feel happy and gradually we forget that we have not eaten or we have to sleep right here next to taps in the drinking water area.”
Elisa is 8yrs old, lives on the pavements along with her other siblings and begs for a living. She also collects some left over coins from the funeral pyres after the last rites are performed as per the hindu rituals. If lucky she even finds a piece of gold, which she sells to other petty thieves or drug peddlers. 
But what really sets Elisa apart from other kids in the begging community is that she is convinced that if she goes to school her life can change dramatically.
We opened our hearts to Elisa and her friends and welcomed them to Koseli. Every morning Krishna (our teacher) would go to Pashupati Temple area in search for our 10 chosen kids and bring them to school. It obviously wasn’t easy for him. Elisa played the role of the lead spotter in Krishna’s search. 
Initially the routine of the kids was kind of weird. They would come to the school eat, sleep, bathe and then again eat and sleep. It was heart wrenching to see how their lives revolved around food and now that they had access to 3 full meals a day, they wanted to make up for all the past years. On a yet another lazy sunny morning, they even shared my lunch after finishing theirs. For me, it was the best meal of my life. 
Gradually things changed and they started showing interest in studies and soon, as per their grasping levels they were assigned classes. Now they follow the same routine as other kids at Koseli.
Elisa along with her three more friends has not only been coming to school regularly but has also given up sniffing glue. She is a very cheerful and bubbly child and looks very different from the girl with matted hair and ragged clothes we first met. Our best wishes are with her and her friends.
However we have not been so lucky with Devi, Namuna and others. They were deep into addiction and no amount of luring them to basic comforts of life, Koseli could not hold them. These kids now just vanish into the thin air when Krishna does his daily rounds in Temple area.
Nevertheless, we are very happy because even if it is four lives that we have been able to transform, we feel it was worth all the effort. After all it is human life we are talking about. We are on our way to successfully integrating Elisa and her three friends in the Koseli family. As of now we are operating full capacity and don’t know what to do about the 40 kids on the wait list.
Elija, when she came

(L-R) Akash, Kumar and Elija (now)