here are a lot of children in India, who do not get basic education. They are exposed to child labour, drug abuse, smuggling, poverty and lots more. To meet their daily needs, they are forced to beg on the streets. While most of us feel sad, and pity the children for their state, Haimanti Sen, a resident of Mumbai took the matter more seriously.
Haimanti can be seen teaching underprivileged children on top of Kandivali station skywalk in Mumbai every day. She is on a mission to equip these children with the necessary skills that will enable them to be enrolled in a regular school.
Haimanti, a drama teacher, like many others wondered about the future of slum kids loitering near train stations and wondered if they went to school. While travelling to work every day, she would often come across kids from the nearby slum whiling away time or begging. She thought about the difficult environment they were growing up in. She began questioning herself on whether they understood the importance of education, whether they attended school or even knew about the Right to Education Act. She decided to visit the families and seek out answers to these questions she had in mind. Haimanti saw some children of a nearby slum at the station and requested them to take her to their parents. After meeting the families, she asked them about their kids’ education for which the parents had no answer. Looking at the poor situation of the children, she decided to teach art and craft to the kids on alternate days. The parents, however, were not happy about her decision. They tried to dissuade her from teaching, but Haimanti refused to give up. She even got in touch with a school in the area to enrol some of these kids. However, challenges remained pertinent. The school authorities agreed to take these children in only if Haimanti would guarantee their attendance to school on a regular basis. The school was also hesitant about the children’s interest in attending the school, for which she had no answer.
‘Junoon’ is born
Haimanti took it upon herself to train and equip these kids for the rigorous hours at a formal school. From a few months in 2018, she taught them on alternative days, often juggling her work with passion. She finally quit her full-time job and involved herself in educating these kids. This initiative of hers, which started as a solo mission, grew into an eight-member team that paved way to the birth of an NGO called ‘Junoon’. Soon, Haimanti started visiting the skywalk where she taught the kids for an hour and a half. The children are taught Hindi letters, English alphabets, basic mathematics, developing cognitive skills to steer young minds into the right direction.
Children learn dance, art and craft on Saturdays and Sundays, attend regular classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. And, on Wednesday, they are exposed to street plays.
Despite getting the children to attend classes on the skywalk, it is very difficult to convince the parents. Most of the parents of the children have a criminal background, and the environment that they grow in is not a favourable one.
In most situations, the children are forced to beg by missing the classes. There have also been instances where children had hidden under parked vehicles, trying to escape from the parents and waiting for Himanti to pick them up. But, a lot has changed since Haimanti and her team have begun teaching these kids. They have begun to learn basic manners such as responding to their roll numbers, and maintaining basic hygiene such as combing their hair to look more presentable. Haimanti now guarantees that out of all the kids that she has worked with, around five of them are fit to be enrolled in schools. She also stays hopeful that the rest of her students will someday reap the benefits of her efforts.