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Fight to save lake expands to teaching slum children

DNA
Oct 15, 2012
By Merlin Francis

Volunteers with the Puttenahalli Lake Neighbourhood Improvement Trust (PLNIT) have been involving the residents of the nearby slum in their efforts to protect the lake. Till recently, the involvement was limited to creating awareness among the residents with regard to disposing waste effectively and making sure that the lake is protected.

However, PLNIT volunteers decided to expand the scope of what they were doing when the pujari of a nearby temple asked them to teach slum children.

For the last two months, over 15 volunteers from the apartments near the lake have been helping 9th and 10th standard students with their lessons. “We have been trying to involve the slum residents in the protection of the lake. We have been telling them about the ecosystem, the importance of protecting the lake and the birds that visit the lake,” said Ramaswamy OP, a volunteer, adding that based on the pujari’s suggestion, an email was sent to the group requesting for volunteers. “The response was swift. Several highly placed professionals volunteered,” he said.

The classes have been held every weekend. Each teacher has about five children and each subject is taught for an hour. Apart from lessons for 9th and 10th standard students, the volunteers have been getting a lot of requests for spoken English and computer classes. “A brother of one of the girls came to us to learn to speak English. He hopes it will help him get a better job,” Ramaswamy said.

“We wanted to make sure that these students did not drop out of school just because they failed in a subject or two,” he said.
Most students coming for the classes belong to economically weaker sections living near the lake.

Except a few, most study in Kannada medium schools. Currently, the student-teacher ratio stands at 1:5. The volunteers aim to give specialised attention to each child. “We want to reduce the teacher-student ratio and we need more volunteers for this,” Ramaswamy said.

“Before we volunteered, classes were held at the temple. However, the two teachers had a lot of students to look after and when they took off, the students too got a holiday. We are trying to streamline the process,” Ramaswamy said.

According to Ramaswamy, some parents are hesitant to send children to the classes. “Children are very enthusiastic and if given a leg up, they can do really well in school. But if parents do not send their children, we are helpless,” Ramaswamy said, adding: “Perhaps more children will come when they see that those who have come here are doing well.”

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