February 22, 2020
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Life Is Not Just A Chore

Housemaids seek new avenues for study and vocational training beyond their call of duty

Life Is Not 
Just A Chore
Life Is Not Just A Chore
"Main Telugu padh sakti hoon," chants a group of 10-12-year-olds as they pore over their Hindi workbooks. Too old to learn the basics? Perhaps. But these are not ordinary students. Each child at Ananda Bharati is a domestic help who works at least five hours every morning before reaching school at 2 pm. The girls studying here have never had any formal schooling, some began working at the age of seven to contribute to the family income.

The school was started on a verandah of the YMCA, in the Tarnaka area of Hyderabad in 1989 by Janaki Iyer and Bhagyalaxmi. They wanted to educate the girl children of construction workers. "Today, the school has students between 5-17 years and all of them are coached till they are ready to take the class VII board exam," says V. Sailaja, who teaches there.

The girls are divided into three groups. In the first, they are taught numbers and the alphabet. Once they start understanding syntax and sentences, they move on to group II. At this level, general science, maths, environment and history are introduced. Gradually, they adapt to the state syllabus. they also discuss newspaper reports and have story-reading sessions. Embroidery and tailoring classes are held thrice a week. Slowly but surely, they become aware of their rights and develop a thirst for knowledge. The school also admits some students in government schools. More importantly, the school continues its association with old students by way of academic help and career guidance. Lalitha and Maria, now in college, drop in. Both of them are still working as maids but are firm about continuing their studies.

Venkateshwari and Gayatri work in three houses before coming to school. Rajitha catches a bus after completing her chores in two houses. Balamma works 7 am to 12 noon yet her eyes sparkle when asked if she likes coming to school after such a hard day. "I love it. We learn, play, sing and dance."

Between 2-5 pm, the girls seem to recover their lost childhood at the school. Sailaja says the teachers actually go on rounds of the hutments to persuade parents to send their girls to Ananda Bharathi. The funding comes from agencies like cry as well as donations. It has five full-time teachers and volunteers who chip in. All the girls are first-generation students, the wonder of learning is writ large on their faces.

Contact c/o needa, 12-13-1173, Street No. 10, Tarnaka, Secunderabad—500017, Andhra Pradesh. Tel: 040-27154178, 27017700

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