In the year 2006, the Kalandar Education Program took off in Bhopal as part of the Kalandar Rehabilitation Program. Although no stone was left unturned in trying to convince the Kalandars to send their children to school, only one application form was received by the Kalandar Rehabilitation officer Prerna Sharma. Four years later in 2010, 101 Kalandar children in Bhopal are seeking the help of Wildlife S.O.S. to get admitted to their respective classes or complete their education in 2011. Apart from school fees Wildlife S.O.S. also assists these children by distributing text books, uniforms, school bags etc.
Ironically the first child to ask for assistance under the Education Program, to complete his education, Nasir, is now studying engineering. When Nasir’s father surrendered his bear years back and sought rehabilitation from Wildlife S.O.S. he also realized that education was the only way to a brighter future for Nasir. So he sent Nasir to school. In 2006 when Wildlife S.O.S. also launched the Kalandar Education Programme under the Kalandar Rehabilitation Programme Nasir was the first and only child to ask for help to complete his schooling and go for higher studies. But now others are following him and many more Kalandar children including girls are completing their schooling and aiming for a better future. Aashiya and Shainaz, are two girls who are now in their 11th year of school and doing their two years of pre-university, and plan to continue on to university in another 2 years time. For a community whose women have always been subjugated and kept behind veils this is a major development and yard stick for progress. There are many more such girls who along with their brothers and other boys are now going to school with support and blessings from their parents. Nasreen, Saida and Reshma are three other success stories from the Bhopal Kalandar Community. These girls are now in their 10th year of school and preparing to sit for their exams to go on to the 11th year, one of the two significant years of pre-university.
Rehabilitation officer Prerna Sharma said “Satyadeep Jagruti Kendra, a school run by Christian missionaries and located in the Kalandar settlement area is helping us educate this children and give them a better quality of life. The school provides one meal to the children free of cost and this goes a long way in getting children to attend classes regularly. Parents also are more keen to send the children to school. The school also gives individual attention to its students, organizes parents awareness program and parent-teacher meetings like any private school. This helps in keeping the students as well as the parents stay focused on studies and exams. About 75 of the total students are admitted in Satyadeep Jagruti Kendra.”
Nargis, a 7 year old Kalandar girl who is also a Polio victim and cannot walk is another achievement of the Education Program. Nargis could not go to just any school because of her handicap. All schools were not equipped to taking proper care of her. Therefore with funding from Wildlife S.O.S. she was admitted to a private school who could take care of her needs. She is an extremely happy and bright child and enjoys going to school. Her mother Tasleem who is training in one of our tailoring centres says “She is always excited to go to school and is always ready one hour before time. If left to herself she would read her books all the time whether day or night. After school she tells us all about what she was taught in school that day and makes us follow what her teachers teach her.” Zameer, her proud father adds “She is now conscious about things like hygiene and manners. She makes her mother bathe her daily, wash her hair, cut her nails, clean her uniform regularly etc. She also advises me to bathe daily and to wear clean clothes. She also uses please, sorry and thank you when she speaks to us and others.” With help from Wildlife S.O.S. Zameer invested his rehabilitation funds wisely and now has an auto, an omni van and also a Sumo.
Geeta Seshamani, co founder, Wildlife S.O.S. says “We also provide training to the Kalandar girls in our tailoring units during the summer and winter vacations. Although all children are encouraged to complete their education and everything is done to ensure that it happens, Wildlife S.O.S. provides vocational training like driving etc to Kalandar boys if and when they decide to discontinue education and take up jobs. It helps keep them away from gambling and trying to earn the quick buck the wrong way. We also do our best to help them find a secure job of their choice and get settled into their own businesses. Our ultimate aim is to help settle these youngsters in an honest and hard working profession in society and to help them live a better quality of life than they have previously known.”