When the children can’t get to school, bring the school to the children

Not long ago, early morning meant starting the long walk to the city for the child beggars of Jambunatha Bypass. As the name suggests, this is a small hamlet on the bypass road that joins Hospet city to the mining hills. It is inhabited for several decades by a group of nomadic tribal families who live by begging for food and money. Don Bosco, through the determined sensitization of parents and community leaders, arranged for the children to attend the Government Primary School in M.P. Prakash Nagar. But this also meant an hour’s walk to the city, and tired children started to drop out of school.

As part of the “Promotion and Protection of Rights of Children in the mining sector” project, Don Bosco took up advocacy and lobbying with the Education Department and the Department of Women and Child Development to open a school in close proximity to the community. This met with success and a primary school was opened under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan Scheme at the Jambunatha Bypass in the academic year 2017-2018. The Government has appointed one regular teacher and a guest teacher to manage the school.

At present the school has 42 children. All children get mid-day meals under the Akshaya Patra Scheme. The students are also provided with 2 sets of uniforms, shoes and books every academic year. Speaking of the challenges faced while teaching children who had never been to school, the teachers say, “We understand the children are slow learners so we use activity based learning to improve their reading and writing skills.” The school has also been providing space and play materials for the children 2-6 years as there are no anganwadis in the community. This special arrangement has helped the students to come to school regularly as they have been relieved of the responsibility to take care of the younger siblings while the parents go to the city for work.

Don Bosco’s intervention included raising awareness and building capacity for the local stakeholders and the community’s men for sustainable livelihoods. As a result almost all the families have given up begging and started small businesses like selling dress materials and marketing stationery products. The community has now been actively advocating with the Government to construct houses for them in Jambunatha Bypass and ensure water and sanitation. The Education Department has promised an anganwadi by the next academic year. “We all like to go to school, because school is just next door” say the children in unison. In the early morning, Jambunatha Bypass’ children still walk. But now, it is a proud march towards school.