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A ‘bridge’ to mainstream education

P. Sujatha Varma
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‘Chiguru’ a ray of hope for orphan, abandoned and street children

Children having fun at Chiguru near Venkatapalem.
Children having fun at Chiguru near Venkatapalem.

They have finally found a bridge to the mainstream education. Initially fed on tailor-made courses to get their fundamentals right, these 72 out-of-school children rescued or weaned away from street life by Navajeevan Bala Bhavan, a local NGO engaged in rescue and rehabilitation of orphan, abandoned and street children, are now well-equipped to compete with peers in mainstream schools.

The tormented and dejected children are brought to Chiguru (which means a young tender sprout), a picturesque children’s village developed on the banks of the Krishna near Venkatapalem and are offered bridge courses in a residential set-up.

Orientation camps

The mainstreaming of education is preceded by orientation camps participated by the children divided in three different groups -- Prerana (for children up to 12 years), Velugu (for those above 12 years) and Vimukthi (for children addicted to substance abuse).

All the three groups are placed under Group Care Home. Children at Chiguru are housed in separate cottages, each taken care of by a ‘care mother/care parent’. Majority of the children in need of care and protection are referred by the Child Welfare Committee, Krishna district.

“Our first priority is to try and re-integrate the children with their biological parents. But many of them, for some reason, refuse to go back home. We admit them to residential bridge school and prepare them for regular schooling. This academic year, we have mainstreamed 72 children,” says Navajeevan Bala Bhavan Programme Manager R. Venkata Swamy.

The children at Chiguru are a mix of street children, girls who have been victims of sexual crimes and often disowned by their families, children affected or infected by HIV/AIDS and rescued child labour.

Of the present strength of 209 at the village (boys-135 and girls—74), 72 of them have been mainstreamed into regular schools as per their age appropriate classes.

Of them 26 are in the age group of 8-12 years, 32 in the age group of 13-16 and 14 in the age group of 16-18 years. “The children will now have the best of both worlds. They will learn in a structured and suitable environment which will pave the way for their bright future,” says Fr. Thomas Koshy, Director of Chiguru.


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