The Delhi chapter of Plan India is running media clubs to train young reporters in the underprivileged sections of the society. Karan Chaudhary reports from one such centre

Travelling on the uneven dirt road leading to Rangpuri Pahadi, it is hard to believe that one is only a few kilometres away from Vasant Kunj with its big cars and posh malls.

Home to 8,000 people, Rangpuri Pahadi is one of Delhi’s many forgotten residential colonies. A crowd surrounds a water tanker, while others sit around the clustered houses or navigate the narrow roads. Like the multitude of unrecognised residential spaces, there is little infrastructure in this colony and it has no water supply or sewerage.

But despite the dismal surroundings, there is great verve in the populace, something often found missing in the more affluent parts of the city. Located in a one-room space, the Media Club, an initiative of Plan India, is an expression of this spirit. Talking animatedly, Rubina (name changed) explains how she and her friends found the desolate and lonely route they had to take to school to be quite scary. “After we talked about it here, a meeting was arranged with the police officer in charge, who was very accommodating and made arrangements for better patrolling of the route,” she says. The enthusiasm of the children is palpable. Talking about her experience with the centre, Aparajita (name changed), one of the younger members of the centre, says how the centre allows her to attend dance classes and take part in performances. “We’ll be performing on 26th January. I am going to dance in that performance,” she says.

Plan India, the India chapter of the organisation Plan International, has been working with disadvantaged children since 1979 and has a presence in 11 states across the country. Its Delhi chapter, which took off in 2008, runs seven such clubs across the city.

The Media Club provides the children learning opportunities beyond those they can get from their schools. The club trains children in report writing and photography. They are trained to be cub reporters so that they can report on the happenings in their localities. The media clubs are a part of the wider children outreach programmes run by the organisation. The children were sent to Dehradun for comic training and to Mongolpuri for cartoon training, gaining technical skills they would normally not have been able to access, say Plan officials.

The centre provides children with training in other fields, alongside the general outreach initiatives. “All the children in the area can come to centre. There are around 700 children who visit the centre,” says Yllaylee, a Plan India functionary.

Seema, a facilitator at the centre, explains the activities. Drawing and writing figure prominently, with informative movies being shown to the children from time to time. “The movies are used so that the children are able to engage with the ideas better. Children here often miss out on critical lessons on hygiene, safety and social awareness at home, so these movies attempt to fill that void,” she adds.

The kids are also informed of their rights and taken on exposure and field visits which expand their worldview. “They were taken on visits to the SGPU, the Juvenile Justice Board as well as the police station. There was also a discussion on the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. These are done to make the children more aware of their rights,” explains Seema.

The club functions in a very democratic manner. The children select the members of the club and also decide on the tenure. “The media clubs and the other training programmes can only be given to a limited number of children, and selections need to be done, but these are done by the children themselves in a democratic manner. The children take part in workshops where a technical assistant helps them in forming an application of interest. The children then vote on which children are selected,” explains Yllaylee.