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Meet Saraswathi Padmanabhan, an auditor turned Montessori teacher making a difference in the lives of migrant workers’ children, one child at a time!
“Universal access to quality early childhood education is perhaps the best investment that India can make for our children’s and our nation’s future.”
— Draft National Education Policy, 2019, Page 50
What about children of families below the poverty line? Are they not the future of our nation? Should we be apathetic about their learning? How do seasonal migrant workers provide elementary education to their children?
Saraswathi Padmanabhan runs Diya Ghar, an NGO for urban India’s migrant workers, founded in 2016 with the guiding principle to provide quality education to each child.
As a trained Montessori teacher and counsellor, Saraswathi has a deep understanding of child development. She also holds degrees in accounting, finance and worked as an auditor in California.
During my visit to her Kalkere centre in Bengaluru, I met Shivappa, a three-year-old boy, enrolled at Diya Ghar. Shivappa walks up to me and acknowledges me with a smile. We shake hands and wish each other good morning. Meanwhile, his teacher enters the office and lures him back to class.
He has three siblings and he is the youngest. His father is an alcoholic, and his mother is a daily wage worker. Shivappa and his siblings spend eight hours a day at Diya Ghar.
There are many more children like Shivappa studying at the three centres of Divya Ghar located around Horamavu Lake in Bengaluru.
Shivappa and other children reach Diya Ghar around 8:30 a.m. A school van picks the children from their homes located around the centres.
Montessori pedagogy is used to educate children within the age of 3 – 6 years. There are various learning spaces, and children move along with their teachers learning early literacy and numeracy skills.
In the afternoon, children have art and craft, playtime, music and movement sessions. Children eat healthy and nutritious meals, such as porridge and fruit for breakfast, different meals for lunch, and milk and snacks in the evening.
How different would Shivappa’s life be, had he not been enrolled at Diya Ghar? Like many children of migrant labourers, chances are that he would be collecting garbage, begging on the roads, doing odd jobs at the construction site or squandering his time in the shacks or in a village.
At Divya Ghar, children get a safe and hygienic learning environment. Like other preschools, children here have a uniform, portfolio of their work and PTM.
Teachers are Montessori trained, enthusiastic and devoted to making a positive impact on the lives of these children. The classrooms are well lit and have ample of learning aids.
Saraswathi and her team encounter a string of challenges to provide education to children of migrant workers. Working with migrant communities to make them mindful of the impact of education on the future of their children, itself is a task.
The other challenge is getting these kids admitted to a government school for primary education. Most of them belong to seasonal migrant families that do not have appropriate identity proof or even birth certificate. Hopefully, with the new education policy, this will be resolved.
You too can be a part of this endeavour along with Saraswathi and other members of Diya Ghar. Sponsor a child or donate books, food or stationery materials for these children. Also, give your time to the centre, teaching these kids and bringing a positive change in their lives.
Know more about Diya Ghar and how you can be a part of this remarkable journey by visiting their website.
The article was previously published here.
Picture credits: Author’s own pictures
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