The Special Rehabilitation Programme covered three major interventions:
Support to children of sex workers, HIV positive children and children with HIV Positive parents:
AWARE has been supporting the education of these children for over five years in Surat and other places. This year, Swapath identified and supported 590 children of sex workers and children whose parents are HIV infected and 89 children who are being treated for HIV infection.
Sarvoday Ashram at Valam near Visnagar
In 2009, AWARE partnered with an Ashram School in Manund near Patan because it was one of the few such residential schools for the children of Denotified Tribes, educationally one of the most backward communities in Gujarat. The partnership could not go very far as the Trust handling the School showed a lack of ability to handle funds from abroad.
AWARE found another similar school for DNT children near Visnagar in North Gujarat and collaborated with the Sarvoday Ashram located at the village, Valam, near Visnagar. The School had many problems but Swapath developed a plan in three phases to increase the numbers, improve the infrastructure as well as improve the quality of education.
In the first phase, the focus was on increasing the number of students and sustaining their interest by offering better food, living conditions and supportive care to the younger children. This was achieved by:
(a) engaging in a constant dialogue with the teachers and the management team;
(b) talking to the government and getting special “Pragya” classes introduced;
(c) engaging a trained hostel warden to be with the children in non-schooling hours and
(d) introducing bunk beds for the children in the hostels (instead of sleeping on the mats).
As a result of these efforts, the number of children, which was only in its 20s, has now risen to above 90 boys and girls in seven grades. The parents of these children are now attracted to the better infrastructure. There is still a lot of scope for improvement but as the teachers are not employed by AWARE (they are employed by the Government) it is quite a task to get work from them according to AWARE plans.
Recently, however, unable to handle the teachers, the management has shown disinterest in the collaboration as they are not able to meet with the mutually decided quality standards in academics.
The Seasonal Hostels & LRCS in Dangs
The “Banphool” project supported by AWARE is the most important and engrossing involvement of Swapath Trust (of which, Paul Kenyon made a video documentary)
In 2015-16, Swapath managed seven seasonal hostels, sheltering 211 children for seven months when the parents of these children migrated for sugarcane cutting work in the neighbouring districts.
Swapath hires accommodation in these villages and engages three workers per hostel to take care of the children. The children go to the government school in the village. The hostel not only provides two meals and a snack every day (four on a Sunday) but also offers medical facilities, counselling services, age-appropriate games and sports equipment and opportunities for excursions and festival celebrations. The children enjoy the food (most are so poor that at home they do not even get two square meals a day) and the company of the other children; so much so, that even when their relatives or visiting parents call, they do not like to leave the hostel for long.
The hostel takes precautions to protect children’s rights and their safety by following protocols for staff, visitors and interns/volunteers.
This year, while this report is being written, the flow of children is just beginning to trickle in as the families are still in the process of migrating. 120 children have been enrolled in three villages. Three more villages might join the group soon.
Apart from the seasonal hostels, Swapath, with funding support from American India Foundation (AIF) has started two Learning Resource Centres (LRCs). These are centres where village children are offered learning material and equipment for experiments, do-it-yourself projects, etc. One LRC is facilitated by Ashok Amin, who is an expert story teller and uses this as a medium to teach children new concepts.
In two villages, Zaran and Jamanyamal, Swapath aims to develop model Seasonal Hostels and LRCs in the year ahead. Training for School Management Committee members and other stakeholders are regularly organised to bring awareness about child rights and the role of SMCs.
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