True News|Sep 15, 2009 6:43 AM| by:

The Busy, Busy Bus

“Doorstep” is the story of how a small individual initiative has blossomed into a mini movement.

Begun in Mumbai in 1988 by Ms Beena Lashkari, the school runs balwadis, non-formal education centers, study groups and provides commuting service—its original mission— to nearly two thousand children. The organisation is supported primarily through donors, the Japanese Consulate, Kirloskar Cummins and Asha for education, among others. A small—voluntary— token payment of Rs 10-25 is taken from the children, primarily to increase their commitment to attend the classes. This has also resulted in parents demanding more accountability from the teachers, which the organisation welcomes. It all began with Beena, the founder, realising that many slum children do not go to school because their parents do not have the time or money to take them to school. She decided to provide a pick up facility for them. Then she realised that they need additional tutoring as well. So, the van needed to double up as a tuition centre where children could be educated as well.

During the day, when the children were at school, the van was not being put to sufficient good use. Beena also noticed the street children, the poorest of the poor, who did not have the luxury of being looked after or spared from their ‘jobs’.

Putting the two together, she decided to educate this group in the van during the day. Hence, the bus plays two roles – that of a school bus and that of a school on wheels. The van is truly a hub of activity. Its day begins at 7.00 am when children from the slums are picked up from their homes and dropped at the municipal schools. During the school hours, the van functions as a “School on Wheels” for working children who do not have the luxury of attending a proper school. The classes in the van itself are held for three hours in a day; most are working children who cannot spare more time than this.

Many of the children get accepted into municipal schools after studying for a while in the van and Doorstep continues to provide support by additional coaching. Vocational courses in sewing, motor mechanics and candle making are also conducted in the van in the evenings. The children are taken on excursions and study tours whenever possible. The children also write a magazine in their own handwriting. “I want to be a police officer and stop all wrong doing”, “I want to be a teacher”, “I want to be a leader” are some of their aspirations. They are optimistic and confident that their dreams will come true.

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(Published with kind permission of where you will find many positive stories on India.)