Quarry workers are more than eager to send their children to her school
What strikes you about Jeny Verma, the co-founder of Lovedale Foundation, is the clarity of her intentions and precision in communication. Cradling the dreams of the people of Anagalapura, three kilometres from Horamavu, Jeny and her not-for-profit organisation work towards building a sustainable life for the children of quarry workers that live in and around the area.
Her foundation nurtures ‘The Cherish Home', a home for the elders, ‘The Littlewoods', a children's home, and a school called ‘The Banyan'.
“It made no sense to work in an area where other NGOs were already present. When we conducted a survey, we realised that while there were plenty of NGOs in urban Karnataka, there were hardly any in rural Karnataka. And it is in rural areas that there is a need for medical facilities, water supply and educational opportunities. So our team of researchers zeroed in on Anagalapura after speaking to the members of the panchayat there,” said Jeny.
The Anagalapura village, as Jeny describes it, seems to be lacking in basic infrastructure. According to her, a good school was nowhere in the priority list for anyone there.
“There wasn't a suitable school for the community and we wanted to change that. Even though there was a school nearby, it charged a hefty fee which made it really difficult for the children of quarry workers to go to school,” she recalled.
Off to school
The families of quarry workers, she found, were more than eager to send their children to school. In fact, parents of girls and boys alike want their children to study and make a career in the profession of their choice. “There are more girls than boys studying in our school. The parents of a bright girl student told us that they would like their daughter to become a doctor some day,” said Jeny.
What makes Jeny's school such an attractive option for these families? “The conventional education system is nightmarish for any child. So at The Banyan, we decided to come up with a model that any child would like. This model is more interactive, where children can choose to talk about their day to the teachers or participate in a song or rhyme session or even choose to read a book,” she said.
Jeny's model is born out of the need to inculcate an interest in the idea of a school among these children. “Most of them have no idea what a school is. Once they show interest, they want to continue to study and that prevents them from dropping out of schools,” said Jeny.
At present, The Banyan has 30 children studying in the primary section.
With a definitive plan to expand the school to accommodate classes until standard 12 , Jeny talked of how the children are already attached to the classroom or what she likes to call ‘an environment'.
“The community was quite vulnerable. So they tended to see you in a different angle and gaining their confidence was a little tough because they tend to be suspicious of our intentions. But today, we have connected so well with them that they come forward with their problems,” she explained.
Eleven years ago, Jeny quit her job with a private airline to focus her energy on the foundation. She has been a resident of the area for the last ten years. “When I first came here, it was a lonely, isolated stretch. Looking back today, the development in the area is stunning. It is good to be here,” she remarked.