Eight year old Rekha and her brother Mahadeva, aged ten are children of quarry workers. Both children spent their days playing at the dangerous quarry completely disregarding school. Ms. Chandrakala, a teacher talked to their parents about Chiguru and appealed to the young children that school was not only about learning, but could be fun as well. She spoke about the overall personality development that would ensue with their regular classes and extra- curricular activities. The wide gap with their peers was only bridged after regular home visits, and health and hygiene training. They are now, after one year, enrolled in grade 3 at the local school…and their family walks with their heads held high.
The program currently reaches out to 50 infants and young children, and there are many success stories apart from Rekha’s and Mahadeva’s. There have been other children with disabilities whose gross motor skills and speech abilities have shown tremendous improvement and are now able to independently perform basic tasks.
For children like Rekha, Mahadeva, and many others, dreams of education and of success, dreams of self reliability and of social acceptance no longer remain just intangible fantasies. Their stories bring hope and direction to all who deemed opportunities and respectable lives impossible and to all who have worked hard to make those dreams real.
Chiguru is a program modeled on an inclusive form of education for developmentally normal and delayed children in and around Jattipalya village in Karnataka, where Shrishti’s rural campus is located. The curriculum designed by UNICEF focuses on building language, cognitive, socio- economic, and physical motor skills while also encouraging disabled and normal children to learn from each other. The program includes transportation to and fro schools, meals, health and hygiene training and spreading awareness among parents.
The principal aim of Chiguru is to present effective pre-school training to children to enable them to perform on par with their urban counterparts when introduced to regular mainstream schools. The overall educational and personal training imparted to these children help them feel confident among their peers. Children with developmental disorders are diagnosed early and taught to effectively manage their disabilities at an early stage, thus minimizing their time of regress.
While Chiguru on one hand aids in enhancing personal and intellectual skills of children, it also gives importance to their nutrition and healthcare. A number of children are being treated for malnutrition. Anti- epileptic drugs and regular pediatric screenings are part of their healthcare. What makes the effort more comprehensive is the fact that not only children, but their parents are also being treated for malnutrition and are actively involved in their wards’ education and performance. Social workers make regular home visits to assess the socio-economic conditions of families and provide follow-up home based training to some beneficiaries.
The credit for the success of this program goes to those social workers who work in these non-conducive and non–receptive environments with unfailing perseverance.