VATSAL CHAYA BALSHIKHA
Bal Shikha is our main educational, vocational and capacity –building program for street-children and exploited children like child labourers, rag-pickers, child beggars, child vendors, tea-shop boys, domestic servants, vagrant children and girls kept away from school for chores and sibling care at home. Children continue to be the most vulnerable and unprotected citizens and India has the largest number of street children in the world.
Street-children are the most marginalized and live in the harshest possible environment. They face violence, abuse, mal-nutrition, crime, drugs, trafficking and become alienated and deviant. Their minds cannot process the adverse circumstances and continuous negative stress—and they develop distorted behavior and habits—hostile to authority, distrustful, cunning, distracted, violent and abusive. They are so alien to the formal school system and require hugely supportive and patient counseling and appropriate teaching methodology.
We carry out mapping in the low income areas, slums, shanties of the city as well as establish regular contact with children in upscale markets, railway and bus stations. The street link is a transitional tool to a more structured school routine and breaking the social and literacy barrier
We have currently 850 children who are being given support for school access, retention, completion and skill training post school We provide the following support to the children in our care
- free transport( we have 2 school buses).
- all school material required
- teachers sensitized to first generation learners
- very attractive classrooms with plentiful teaching ,learning aids,audio-visual lessons with the help of PPTs
- complete health and hygeine support
- emotional coping skills ,personality development through co-curricular activities
- music ,art,craft,games and library part of the daily timetable
- counseling of parents/care-givers adn strong community outreach through regular home visits ,health camps and parent meetings
- flexible school time to accomodate children who cannot come in the regular morning school
- special support to girls facing gender bias by providing sibling care to over 110 pre schoolers who accompany their sisters (sometimes brothers)
- computer classes
- vocational training in traditional Indian embroidery and stitching, carpentry,screen printing on fabric and paper and paper crafts.
We collaborate with the Education Department of the government “flagship program for Education called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.This is under a special Social Initiative Partnership Program in which civil society can work alongside government programs. The government has an existing program for illiterate out of school children and provides them teachers,midday meal ,uniform ,stationery and a curriculum. The government outlay on the children is woefully inadequate and always late by many months. We hugely augment and expand the program and make outcomes more effective .
We do not take any funding from the government but leverage the underutilised space and share the premises of the Government school of Sector 8 Chandigarh ,here we work in two shifts from 9am to 5.30 pm. We currently have 16 centers in this school and 2 in the slums , this making the largest cluster of any NGO in the region.
We are also the only agency in the region including both government and NGO which is busing children free of cost from over crowded areas to underutilised school space in another part of the city.
.Once the child is ready for an age appropriate level he/she is put with a regular class but in the same school so that critical retention support is given in the form of remedial teaching, counselling as well as material support like stationery, shoes, or cycles to come to school on their own.
A bridging program prepares the children for school readiness by reducing immediate deficits but support has to continue otherwise integration is short-lived.
It is a hostile terrain and many times we lose children back to the streets.
We are making earnest efforts to establish a joint platform of child protection where there is active convergence and support of all government departments which impact children together with civil society,non profit groups and community at large.