21 September, 2020

A Blaze On The Dirt Track

The solar panels they provide make education a happier experience in non-formal schools

A Blaze On The Dirt Track
For 12-year-old Gautam Ram, school was a headache, literally. Packed in an airless room with 49 other kids, where the only piece of decoration was a defunct ceiling fan, Ram’s head would soon begin to hurt. A couple of hours later, he would get nauseous. This happened every time he went to the local school, run out of a room in the Dr B.R. Ambedkar Sporting Club. "The discomfort would drive me crazy," says the youngster. "I just wanted to run away." So did many of the others.

By 4 pm—two hours short of the designated time—the children, mostly between nine and 14 years, would clamour to be let off. It was a tough call for the teachers of this non-formal education centre in Calcutta’s Tiljala area. If school was off early, the kids would be made to go to work by their parents. In this poor, crime-infested neighbourhood, with its dirty labyrinthine lanes and the stench of cured leather thick in the air, about 80 per cent of the youngsters are child workers. With tannery jobs being the main source of income, children do several things—from cleaning and beating leather...



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