Shakuntalam believes that 'Training of a human mind is incomplete without 'Education' - It is education that makes man a right thinker'
Based on this philosophy we strive to ensure that education is available to everyone possible.
My name is Dr. Nalini Bhargava and my inspiration to start ‘Shakuntalam’ came from an incident that took place way back in 1996. I was on a morning walk and saw a 4-year-old girl and her little brother wistfully watching other children in school uniform boarding a school bus. On enquiring, I realised that these two kids were eager to go to school, but circumstances prevented them from being able to pursue it. I went on to meet their parents who were daily wage labourers. The discussion that I had with them struck a chord within me.
The father said, “Please madam, do not show our children dreams which we can’t imagine. Poor people like us, dare not to see such dreams. We are daily wage labourers; we barely make enough money to feed them two meals a day. Our children will follow in our footsteps and be daily wage labourers as well.”
The mother added, “You might encourage them to go to school and pay for their schooling now, but what happens in a year or so? You will forget about them and then what will happen? Please don’t show our kids dreams which cannot be sustained.”
As I was absorbing this, the father in a raised tone asked me a question that changed my life, “Will you look after the cost and education of my children, not just for the next year or two, but till they finish their schooling?” Faced with this, I could do nothing except say, YES!
From then onwards, me and a few like-minded friends began looking after the education of a few under-privileged children each year. With time we realised that there was a greater focus needed as a lot of these children did not have access to early learning. With that in mind we set up Shakuntalam Shiksha Kendra in 2006. Our aim is to beat illiteracy by bringing children from under-privileged backgrounds up to speed with their education so that they reach the required level to be integrated into mainstream schools.
Presently we run 2 schools: One in Sector 23, Gurgaon and the other one in Rajiv Nagar, Gurgaon.
We made a modest beginning with 16-20 children in one school. Currently, we have over 55 kids in each of our two schools.
Our schools offer informal education to these kids so that they find it easier to adjust to the format of education. Apart from education, we also ensure that they are exposed to basic life skills and general hygiene. We strive to get them into mainstream education and then look after their educational costs till they finish their entire schooling.
HOW IT WORKS
Once these kids are confident enough to enter the mainstream education system, we help with their admissions into Government Schools. The brighter kids are encouraged to enter the Private schools and all the costs till they graduate out of school are borne by Shakuntalam.
So far we have helped 25+ children who have been admitted into both government and private schools, such as Gyandeep Public school, R.K. Public School, St. Xavier public school and the Govt schools in Moolahera & Chakkarpur. (All in Gurgaon)
Ajay and Sanjay were twins aged 10 years and were born to parents who ran a guthka, bidi and cigarette shop. These kids were quite naughty, used abusive language, chewed tobacco and smoking cigarettes. Within a year of them joining Shakuntalam Shiksha Kendra, we have managed to wean them away from tobacco and cigarettes and have also instilled discipline in them. They were very interested in dance, drama and music and we encouraged them to put up a stage performance in our annual function. Now they have been admitted into a private school and are carrying on their extracurricular activities as well.
Meenakshi Sen came to us as a young child and we helped her come up to speed with her education. At the age of 16, she was admitted into St. Xavier’s Public School in Rajiv Nagar and she passed her school leaving examination with a distinction of 77%. Today she conducts tuition's for other children from underprivileged backgrounds and she’s preparing to begin a Bachelors course. Shakuntalam bore all of her educational expenditure.
WHAT WE NEED
Of the two schools we run, the one at Sector 23 is completely funded for all costs – from space to teachers’ salaries to morning snacks, supplies, educational materials & any incidental expenses.
For the Rajiv Nagar School the space is provided by St. Xavier School on a monthly rental basis. We take our classes from 2:30 to 5:3 PM. We also have our regular donors who provide enough funds for evening snacks for the children as these snacks are the incentive for the parents to send their kids regularly.
Here we seek your support to continue to provide care & education to students at our school in Rajiv Nagar. Our aim is to crowd-fund INR 1.32 lakhs for the salaries of the teachers and to provide study materials such as
Teachers : 2 teachers teaching 26-27 children each
Basic copies, pencils etc.
Colourful books of English & Hindi alphabets & Basic maths
Colour books, Crayons, Charts and IQ books.
Dr. Nalini Bhargava
Founder Shakuntalam NGO
Risks and challenges
The major challenge we face is the irregularity of the children's attendance in school. There are times when we have only 30-35 kids in schools and there are also few months when we have more than 110 children coming to school.
There are only 30% to 40% of students who are regular to school, and their parents are serious about giving them an education.
However from last 4 months, the attendance in school on daily basis is approx 50-52 students and out of them 30-45 are the regular students coming daily from the date of joining.