A Himalayan push for literacy

Rotaractors with children at the adopted school.

Happy schools create the right environment for children to become great citizens and achieve bigger things in life. Under the TEACH initiative of the Rotary India Literacy Mission, RAC Chandigarh ­Himalayan, D 3080, adopts schools lacking in basic facilities such as sanitation, furniture and books, and convert them into happy centres of learning.

In the last two years, six schools in slum areas were adopted and completely transformed; the club has a target of transforming five schools this Rotary year. “We put our hearts out in making each school a happier place which the children deserve and will cherish,” says Club President Priya Krishnan. The club holds fundraisers such as Pirates of the City, a treasure hunt game and Salsa Slam, a dance workshop, to take care of their financial needs for the Happy School projects. “Last November, we organised the Pirates of the City event, netting `1.5 lakh. Most of our fundraiser events are planned much in advance with our team working in full force,” she says.

A Rotaractor entertains children.

With a total of 700-plus students in their adopted schools, the club holds a number of contests and promotes sports to make formal education a balanced mix of classroom learning and extra-curricular activities.

Having identified 150 adult illiterates in the two slum colonies through a survey, the club has successfully roped in 60 of them for literacy classes. “We hold street plays and regular campaigns to inspire adult illiterates to attend our literacy classes.” The club has joined hands with the NGOs Jan Shiksha Sansthan and Arpan to take up the literacy challenge in the slums of Chandigarh. “While the funds and venue for teaching are provided by the Sansthan, the Rotaractors are trained by Arpan on the prescribed syllabus,” says Project Director Rtr Sapna Devi.

The Rotaractors also encourage illiterate adults to enrol in the literacy programmes being held by the ­Sansthan as part of the government initiative. “However, for the government sponsored skill development classes one should have passed Class 5 to become ­eligible,” says Devi. ­Further, the club has tied up with ­Infosys which will hold a workshop for Rotaractors to equip them with teaching skills for adult literacy classes. In order to expand their literacy reach, the club survey is now being extended to nearby villages such as Maloya and Dhanas.


Tweaking ‘Back to School’

During the survey, the Rotaractors were surprised to find out that there were no school dropouts as the mid-day meal programme is popular in these areas. “We are now preparing to teach schoolgoing children below 18 years from underprivileged families who can’t support their wards financially,” explains Devi, adding that “the experience of being trained to educate adults and children is new to us and we are getting into the groove.”

Out of its total membership of 709, the club has roped in 180 Rotaractors for its literacy programmes.


Other projects

With the idea of instilling compassion towards other beings, Project Animal Welfare led by Rtr Ananta Kant is focused on the adoption of street dogs. The club organises animal welfare campaigns and through public demos explain how people are making lives miserable for animals.

RAC Chandigarh Himalayan has made it a ritual to spend time with children of an orphanage every year during Christmas. Dressed up as Santa Claus, the Rotaractors entertain the children and shower them with goodies.


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