I would like to thank the Fellowship team (Katrina, Arpita, Garima and Katja) for fantastic planning and implementation of the orientation programme. From day one to the closing day of Orientation, I enjoyed each and every process mention in the schedule. I worried before to come to Delhi for Orientation. Why? Because English is my fourth language after Hindi, Urdu and Arabic. But in a very short period, we become very good friends. I am sure that we will be in touch in the future also.
September 18th, 2016, was the most memorable day of my life. This is when I got on the first flight in my life (don’t be surprised, it’s true!). It was terrible – the plane failed to land twice in Ahmadabad Airport due to heavy rain and a cyclone. When after the third attempt, the pilot announced that we successfully landed at Ahmadabad, the entire passengers started to applaud in relief. Later, after two weeks of orientation, I arrived at my host organization Swapath Trust in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Over the past month, I visited Gandhi Ashram, Nav Jeevan Press, Gujarat University and Kamal Kush (a paper factory started by Mahatma Gandhi). I went through various documents which are related to national and international acts and policies to find out more about the government’s and organizations’ role in the field of child rights in different areas of Gujarat. At the same time, I also studied The People of India , which is a caste-based study published in 1868. These documents helped me a lot about colonial history and the caste system before going to the field to see the reality.
Swapath Trust works for the education and rehabilitation of some of the most vulnerable children in Gujarat. These children include orphans, street children, child labourers, children of sex workers, children of nomadic and migrant families, disaster victims and children of HIV positive parents. Children of families forced to migrate for their livelihood constitute one important ‘vulnerable’ category of children and are Swapath’s most important clients. Under its ‘Banful’ (forest flowers) project, Swapath works with the children of families who are forced to migrate for sugar cane cutting at sugar mills.
The ‘Koytas’, as these families are known due to the tool they use for cutting cane, migrate to the neighbouring districts to cut sugarcane and do some back-breaking work under most unfriendly living conditions for seven to eight months. However, when they return, they are either already in debt or get indebted while staying in their native villages for the remaining four to five months of the year. This situation forces them to borrow once again, which makes it impossible for them to come out of the vicious cycle of poverty and migration.
Here in the Dang district, I am directly involved with Koyta migrant’s children in the seasonal hostel and LRC, run by Swapath Trust. I have been here with them for the last two weeks. Although I don’t know Gujarati or the Dangi language, every day I spend two to three hours with these children. Here I am not a Learning Resource Centre (LRC) facilitator, but rather in a supporting role to help to LRC facilitator. Among the children, only one boy named Taalu knows some Hindi, so he mostly communicates during any activities. They laugh when I try to repeat Taalu’s words. But the best part is that every day we learn something new. It was difficult to interact with them at first, but not impossible. I read a book hope you also “Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window” written by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi . In this book, the author suggests that a school or an environment should encourage learning with fun, freedom, and love. Although I am neither a teacher nor a core subject expert, these words resonate with me. I am just trying to create a learning space for those who want to learn with their peers.
Around 30-35 children regularly come to the LRC; mostly they live in a seasonal hostel. Every day they arrive happily and take a book to read according to their interest, or they start to play with some of the games from the learning activities boxes. Sometimes I don’t have an answer on how to use the games because instructions are written in Gujarati. But together we try to do as per our knowledge and we experiment. In this LRC, we have more than 100 short story books. Every day, two to three children complete a story and afterwards they are being asked some question related to the story. It is a peer learning group. We don’t decide what we will teach you – they themselves decide what they wanted to gain knowledge of that day. I strongly believe in letting them choose. They themselves decide what they want to learn with curiosity and happiness. I think that each and every child has their own personal skills, so here we are just providing an environment to them to explore and what they want to go with them.
 Watson, John Forbes, and John William Kaye. The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations of the Races and Tribes of Hindustan. 8 vols. London: India Museum, 1868-1875.
 Kuroyanagi, Tetsuko. Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window. Transl. Dorothy Britton. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1982.