He who opens a school door, closes a prison.
The little beds in this picture take us back to a childhood fairy tale where a little girl 'dared' to sleep on a bed only to be chased away by a family of bears. The Project Why fairy tale is a little different. These little beds are in a boarding school dorm and invite children to make these their own should they aspire to quality education.
All children aspire to quality education; it is also their constitutional right. Sadly for many the aspiration remains a dream rarely fulfilled. In India for too many children quality education remains inaccessible. What they get is a wasted array of options all falling short, particularly for those born on the wrong side of the divide.
At Project Why we attempt to better the education imparted in State run schools to the best of our ability. We do somewhat succeed but are aware of the reality that so much more needs to be done to provide the enabling environment a child needs to bloom.
Amidst all our programmes there is a tiny one that ticks all the boxes. Seven children are being quietly educated in a boarding school on the outskirts of Delhi.
Many have been skeptical and even critical of this programme that sounds elitist and out of sync with the approach Project Why believes in. That is not quite the case.
Project Why is a firm believer in the neighbourhood state run school attended by children from diverse social strata. That was true once but over the years the advent and mushrooming of private schools that profess to teach English has seen the migration of many children till what is left in state run schools are the poorest of the poor. State run schools are no more level playing fields.
Yet the belief that children from the poorest homes can excel if given the right environment is something that Project Why believes in. When unforeseen and perilous circumstances arose and a child was in need of a safe environment, it was time to put theories to test and begin our boarding school programme, the best option to secure a enabling environment for a underprivileged child. Six others would follow.
The other question often posed, one that is ethical, was how was the selection of children made and why one and not the other. The answer to this question is that it was circumstances that led to the choice: two third degree burn survivors with dysfunctional homes; a young girl whose heart surgery was sponsored by Project Why and who instead of being in school was found working; a child who was adopted then abandoned. All were children who were at the risk of being exploited and abused.
This may not be a satisfying answer as there are millions of children in the same situation.
The only answer that can be given is that these kids were chosen by someone we like calling the God of Lesser Beings and we were His instrument.
When you see the pictures below, you will realise that some of these kids have been with us for many years, since when they were tiny. Their destiny was linked to that of Project Why. Once we held their hands there was no going back.