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Nandini Pasi is a youth from Kolkata who exudes confidence befitting of a true leader. She is an active member of a child group named ‘Shaktiman’ and also a child leader in her slum colony: Khiddrepore port area of Kolkata. In 2022, she appeared in the Madhyamik (School Final) Examination and passed successfully. Bal Raksha Bharat has remained a source of pivotal support in her journey towards completing her school education.

Nandini stays with her two siblings and parents. Her father is a labourer and her mother is a homemaker. Extreme poverty did not make the parents realize the need for education of children. When they were eligible for going to school, they used to stay back at home. As they reside near the port area, many freight cars remain parked all around the roads, thus making the area prone to road accidents. Street lights remain mostly non-functional  and anti-social activities often take place.

The area in which Nandini stayed also lacks a primary school. This means children have to travel far to reach school also mean huge travel costs. needs huge travel costs. This became a major reason for high school dropout rates. A ray of hope for the children of the area emerged when Bal Raksha Bharat (also known as Save the Children) started operating a Mobile Learning Center which became the first vehicle (no pun intended) of learning.

Nandini and her siblings started attending the sessions organised in the Mobile Learning Centre – a classroom on wheels – and acquired good level of . Eventually, they became school-ready and we supported them with admission in a formal school. Through various capacity-building initiatives, Nandini has honed her communication skills and leadership ability. During the pandemic, she supported Bal Raksha Bharat’s efforts to serve the impacted communities. By this time, Nandini had emerged as a Child Champion and helped children younger to her by providing tuition classes during the lockdown period.

Nandini was selected as a member of Children’s Council at Bal Raksha Bharat. Last year, in 2022, she attended the National-level Children’s Consultation Summit held in Lucknow. Her enthusiasm towards protecting the rights of other children of her age has enabled her in mainstreaming at least five children into formal school education, who were otherwise on the verge of dropping out. She is often seen relentlessly supporting her local stakeholders to build a favourable ecosystem for education in her area that would ensure a bright future for every child. Nandini also makes use of technology and Internet to connect with children and other stakeholders in her mission of spreading education.

“If you have an ambition, you can win”, says Nandini elaborating her mantra in life. She further adds, “Since I have got an opportunity to continue my education and I would ensure other children in my community too are in schools and achieve their goals”.

“Nandini, is a true leader, she ensured that every child in her locality should come back to school as the school re-opened after the pandemic”, lauds her class teacher.

How Bal Raksha Bharat is Working to Support Children’s Education

Bal Raksha Bharat, in line with Government of India’s New Education Policy 2020, works to ensure that all children get access to quality education, with a special focus on Early Child Education.  The Mobile Learning Centers (MLCs) supported by Bal Raksha Bharat are quite popular in Kolkata. Under urban education programme, these buses transformed into a classroom, have been able to bring smiles on the faces of the most marginalised urban children residing in the city slums. These MLCs envisage bringing education to the doorsteps of the children who are very hard to reach, including children working as rag pickers, domestic helps, working in tanneries and those living at bus terminals and railway stations.

This is a departure from the usual reading within the four walls of schools as we guide and motivate these children to engage their minds in an exciting learning process. Gradually, the children are equipped and integrated with mainstream education. The entire process takes place within three to six months from the point of identification of a child. The flexible nature of this outreach programme and its support services give Bal Raksha Bharat the potential to reach out to more children like Nandini.

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