The classroom reverberates with an infectious vivacity as six-year-old Moharam, along with her entourage, animatedly recites rhymes in Telugu, English and Hindi. It would be impossible to fathom that the girl was, less than two years ago, made to beg on the streets of the city along with her sisters, by her own parents.
Studying, as well as staying, now at the Government Primary School in Musheerabad, she and her sisters are among nearly 1,000 underprivileged children from across the State to be rescued and housed in ‘rainbow homes' across the city.
Located on the premises' of government schools, the homes are an effort by Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and NGOs to ensure that the unfortunate children, deprived of their right to education, stay and study in the schools.
“Several children, such as those of farmers who have committed suicide, beggars, commercial sex workers and daily wage labourers are often coerced to work by their own parents. If parents are unwilling or unable to send their children to schools, we bring them to our home. While they are otherwise never enrolled or bound to drop out of schools, the homes make sure they receive proper education and care,” says K. Anuradha, of an NGO Aman Vedika, who runs the home in Musheerabad.
Today there are 17 rainbow homes - nine for girls and eight for boys - located in government schools in the city where children are trained in a 10 month ‘bridge course' till they achieve minimum competence to be mainstreamed into their appropriate class.
After Right to Education has been made compulsory, the SSA has come forward to provide Rs. 20,000 per child till he/she completes the bridge course.
Hundreds of students in these homes are now mainstreamed into schools after completion of the course and many are also pursuing their higher studies.
“Several government school buildings had become redundant and teachers had become cynical due to the dwindling number and irregularity students. Now, the buildings are used to their full capacity and children in the homes, who were earlier rejected, are now sought after as they are regular and are often toppers,” says Ms. Anuradha.
Children in rainbow homes are provided all basic amenities such as food, clothing, books and health care. Those who have been mainstreamed are even tutored by volunteers after school hours.
Over 800 girl children and 200 boys have found shelter in these homes run by eight NGOs in the city, including LSN Foundation, Sannihita, APSA, Bala Tejassu, Ashrita and APMWS.