India Education
The united colours of urban, rural Indian kids
Apr 24, 2007 - 3:02:21 PM

New Delhi, April 24 - In a bid to bridge the urban-rural divide, a NGO here has brought children from the city and villages together for interaction as well as exchange of resources and ground realities.

NGO Goonj has introduced 150 rural schoolchildren from 10 states to 300 urban kids from Delhi and allowed them to mingle till the former begin to return home by Wednesday.

'The main purpose of this event - Pratibimb - is to break false perceptions of urban children about rural kids and vice versa and motivate the former to help the latter by donating -,' Anshu Gupta, the founder-director of Goonj, told IANS.

The effortless bonding between the children and the fierce determination of the urban children to help their rural counterparts are evident from the interactions.

'This is the second time I am participating in Pratibimb and I am enjoying every moment of it. I have been organising various activities at the Goonj club in my school and encourage children to donate their old books and stationary for rural kids,' said Aparajita, 13, a student of St. Mark's School in Mira Bagh.

Fifty schools help Goonj in gathering resources for children from far-flung rural areas. Old books, toys, water bottles... everything is gathered, sorted, cleaned and packaged for the rural kids.

'Children here are very sensitive to issues and respond bigheartedly to the little visitors. I remember there was a case when 200 kids from a rural school wanted to drop out because they didn't have water bottles,' said Anuradha Gupta, a teacher at the Manav Sthali School in west Delhi.

'It sounded weird at first, but when I explained that the rural children have to walk five kilometers to school every day where there is no water supply, and then walk back five kilometers again in the heat of the day before getting a drop of water, the matter was taken more seriously. The very next day we received a donation of 1,000 water bottles!' she added.

The visiting children from Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Orissa and Tamil Nadu are naturally ecstatic at both their first visit to the capital and the warm welcome mat put out for them.

'It's very hot here but I don't mind,' said Assamese Manojit Mazumdar, 12, who has stepped out of his home for the first time. 'I have made some friends as well.'

'I feel enriched after this experience,' said a shy Felix Richard of Tamil Nadu who attends a night school. Ten-year-old Makhbool, pipes in, 'Me too!'

Rescued from a unit of the carpet industry, which is infamous for using children as labourers, Makhbool is happy that he goes to school these days. So is Shah Zeda of Uttar Pradesh, who was rescued from a glass unit.

The kids were taken on a tour around the city. Braving the heat, they didn't mind the crowded bus. 'The Red Fort is so beautiful,' said Mazumdar.

City kids admitted that the meeting helped to dismantle their preconceived notions about each other.

'I used to think that children from rural schools are not as smart and intelligent as us. But not any more. After our trip around the city yesterday and the session today, I know that we are all the same and I will do whatever I can to help them,' said Himanshu Dhingra of Cambridge School, Rajouri Garden.

'It used to become a little difficult to interact with the kids from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh because of the language barrier, but the ice was nevertheless broken,' he added.

Said Gupta: 'We plan to take this programme to Mumbai, Chennai and Jalandhar very soon. Also, I want to take some of the urban schoolchildren to the rural areas so that it is an exchange programme in the truest sense.'

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