Street children can be categorised as the most marginalised section of society. They live on the cruel, unfeeling streets of Delhi which aren't places for anyone to live in, let alone children.
The intensive engagement of SBT with street children to transform them into capable and thinking individuals is carried out via - 1) enabling access to education and 2) empowering children with skills.
In 1992, India ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child. The Charter of Child Rights (CRC) is built on the principle that "ALL children are born with fundamental freedoms and ALL human beings have some inherent rights". The four basic child rights conferred by The Charter are dishonoured on the streets of Delhi, are as follows:
A segment of Delhi's population lives on the street or in slum areas spread across Delhi. These are vulnerable children open to trafficking and abuse. Our social and outreach workers strive hard to build bonds of trust and friendship with them, their peers and families. We motivate them to attend our programmes at our many Contact Points where they have access to education, medical assistance, a healthy meal, life skills, and the opportunity of realising their full potential.
"Ashiksha ke andhere se, humein gyan ke ujale ki ore le chalo" (away from the darkness of illiteracy, take me towards the light of knowledge) - you hear little Lakshmi sing the morning prayer. What resonates in her voice is the beckoning of many children to be included in the system where learning is an empowering process. Right from its genesis, through small acts of reading out newspapers to the street children by Nukkad, SBT envisions education and knowledge - not just in the sense of literacy, but in a more holistic way, as a way of living for every child.
A child who has survived the streets is sharp and curious, is willing to learn, and is keen to move on to a better life. The challenge lies in channelising this burst of energy and sharp intelligence onto a constructive path, away from the stray hands of crime and drugs. With this standpoint, an inclusive multi-layered system of education has evolved over the past 25 years, which constructively encourages free will. This system has allowed each child to transverse their journey, burgeon comfortably into unique personalities, and carve a niche for themselves.
Children come to SBT from different parts of the country (some even international!). They bring with them a myriad of experiences - social, cultural, economical, and emotional. Most of them are first-generation learners. And most importantly, either they have no experience of education or they have a bad experience wherein they have been bullied and excluded. "There can be several emotional and mental health issues with the child that may affect their learning abilities. Here we try to be sensitive towards these needs and work with them accordingly, and we keep the interests of the child as a priority," says Mr. S. K. Jha, Education Coordinator. It is in this understanding that the education system in SBT has been able to make the big leap towards inclusiveness.
Thus, SBT has all three forms of education - formal school, non-formal education, and open school - which can be availed by the children, as per the need and capability assessed at the time of the first contact. To deal with this efficiently, different curricula for different levels with supporting teaching staff have been implemented. The teachers play the role of parents, attending parent-teacher meets, and ensure that the child is not discriminated in any way in school.
Active collaborations with multiple reputed schools, like Lawrence, Sanawar; Shiksha Bharti; Bharti Vidya Bhavan etc, have been an important step in this regard as this provides the children with better opportunities and greater exposure. Children with special needs and learning disabilities are given support to blossom to their best abilities. Towards this end, SBT has networked with schools such as ORKIDS, Manovikas, and Amar Jyoti.
As the famous saying goes, "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled". The basic premise of SBT has revolved around the understanding that the ability to memorise and the reason is nothing compared to the emotional richness and creativity residing within each child. Following this philosophy, various camps, trips, and cultural activities have been organised by SBT over the years. These events have been more than just an educational experience that helped in the holistic development of the children.
The first local, educational tour to the zoo was organised for the children in December 1989. Since then, many tours and trips have been regularly organised for children. As a little girl once wrote in her essay about her trip to Nainital, "I never knew the sky was so big and blue". The yearly trips to the museums, art galleries, exhibitions, performances, and summer camps have been important avenues where the children create new experiences and also get an opportunity to explore their talents and aptitudes.
In contrast to the elitist approach to education, SBT is firmly grounded in the belief that education must empower a child to choose their path, and become capable citizens. Thus, education with an emphasis on skill-building is encouraged widely. An SBT boy, now a noted photographer, Vicky Roy, explains how the coordinator of the Home understood his lack of interest in studies and encouraged him to simultaneously focus on learning the nuances of photography. In Vicky's own words, "The deep understanding of the staff that bookish literacy is not merely education, has enabled me to achieve all the accolades!"
Similarly, with the understanding of the importance of music as both recreational and therapeutic, a Sound School was established at the DMRC Children's Home with the help of an Australian volunteer in 2010-2011. Further, under the generous scholarship for higher education by Central Queensland University, Australia, the children of SBT can dream with the confidence of realising their ambitions.
Many stories make SBT proud. In the words of Ms. Geetan Tejpal, "To see the children successful is the biggest reward." Amit* arrived at SBT when he was ready to study in the sixth standard, and then after realising that his performance was noteworthy, Bharti Vidya Bhavan was approached, where he secured admission with flying colours. With hard work and good grades, he fulfilled his dream of becoming an engineer. Similarly, Anil* passed 12th standard with 66% marks and with his determination and hard work, joined YMCA for MBA, and turned his dreams into reality, also realising the SBT policy which Mr. Sanjoy Roy aptly puts, "Dream on!"
"Only education is not the answer for this country, education re-linked with livelihood is the answer."
- Mrs. Praveen Nair, Founder & Trustee, SBT
Vocational training assumes a critical role in helping children enter mainstream society. SBT imparts vocational training for employable skill development and capacity building of growing children. Children above 16 years of age or those who clear their 10th board exam qualify for vocational training. The choice of a vocational training course for a child is made keeping in mind the child's interest and realistic assessment of his/her abilities by the career counsellor and staff members. A careful attempt is made to match the child's skill and ability with the training course he/she opts for. The SBT team makes concerted efforts to enrol children in quality training courses in reputed institutes. The popular choices of courses have been Master Desk Top Publishing, Web and Graphic Designing, Multi-Media Animation, Film Editing, C++ software, Care-giving, House-keeping, Puppetry, Karate, Theatre, Macram, and Photography. Some of the institutes that have provided training are ITI Pusa Road, NIIT, MAAC, Arena Multi-media, Crown Plaza, Taj Mahal Hotel-Mansingh Road, Vivek Sahni's Design House, The Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust, YMCA, Triveni Kala Sangam, and Ramakrishna Institute of Computers.