Sunday, May 15, 2011


Sukhumwasi Slum
Inside view of a shack
We took a head count of the new children who joined school this term (April), only to realize that the numbers were more than our list. We had admitted 22 new students out of 60 on the wait list, after a very strict screening process but we realized that there were more than those coming to school. 
We all started talking and thinking about how this happened and realized that a few guardians/parents had duped us. Even though we had refused admission to their child, they still decided to send them, thinking we would not realize that. This was an eye opener as it made us become aware about desperate they were to send their child to a secure environment.
Screening in progress
It was very important for us to screen the kids as we had more than 60 requests. We made home visits to assess their financial status and only then decided on the final admissions. Easier said than done. Their financial status was decided on owning their own shacks, few pieces of broken furniture etc, which made them more affluent then the others. Even though I was trying to be very practical, I felt sick  inside. I kept doubting my sense of judgment and so it was Krishna, who ultimately took the final decisions. All 60 cases were living in conditions not deemed fit for human survival and from these we were trying to differentiate the “haves” and the “have nots”.

Arjun, his mother donated his 3 brothers 
The other parameters and preference were the girl child not going to school, the older child in the family out of school or the child who had been missing school for a year or more. And believe me there were plenty of those.
We lost control over all the criteria we had set for the admissions when met a mother of five who was living with her brother’s family. Her husband had abandoned her for another woman. She had no way to bring up her children so she had donated three of her older kids to a monastery. Our sense of judgment collapsed. I was shaken and didn’t have a choice but to confirm admission to both her remaining kids. She is now looking for some kind of work (obviously she is uneducated and unskilled), which will pay her enough to move out of her brother’s shack.
It wasn’t much later when we met another lady in that very same situation. All my theories about donations fell apart. What could be a bigger donation than a mother giving her children away.
Consoling a grand mom
Soon after that we met eight year old Ikesh, who looked no more than four years. This tiny little thing had seen more life than most of us. His father is an alcoholic and for no reason beats him and his mother up. The mother on her part is so frustrated that she too beats him up. This act is randomly repeated during any time of the day. Ikesh’s three older brothers have left the parents and live together on the Koteshwor crossing and have taken up begging as their full time profession. Ikesh was not taken with them as they thought he was too much of a burden to go with them and this made him very upset.

The newly admitted younger group
All this makes me think that admissions are going to be the most agonizing part of running Koseli. The parents/ children wait very patiently for us for months to start the admissions and all we can do is open admissions to some but still close doors on most of them….

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