By Jamuna Rangachari December 2009 Nikita Ketkar’s vision to empower children in night schools has given wing to many a fledgling dream. Excerpts from an interviewWhat made you leave your job and take up promoting education?Education has always been my passion. In 2001, I accidentally came across night schools and the problems faced by them.It was at this point that I decided to do something about the problem.The self-motivated night school students, who aspire to study, made me feel strongly about giving back good quality education to these students. It was what they deserved. Nurturing dreams: Nikita Ketkar Who were your inspirations or guides?The self-motivated student with energy and the will to attend night school after a day’s long work.How do you feel with the impact your intervention has made to the children?The students feel more confident and learning has become enjoyable.When things do not go as per your plan, what keeps you going?When things go wrong I am upset, but it is the ultimate vision to reach out to the night schools that keeps me going.Any experience you would like to share?When students come and speak out confidently about the impact of Masoom on their lives, I feel overwhelmed.What is the hope you have for yourself and for Masoom?I want to develop the necessary skills to manage a programme that will scale up. As far as Masoom is concerned, I hope it is instrumental in the makeover of night schools.Photo Caption: Young minds absorbing knowledge after dark in MumbaiNurturing dreams: Nikita Ketkar I want to be a teacher,” says Ram Choudhary, eagerly. Ram did his schooling up to the seventh standard in Aurangabad and went on to continue in night school at Worli in Mumbai simultaneously working and learning vocational skills during the day.“Was it difficult to balance the two?” I ask to which he replies that it was the fact that he is educated today that made up for all of the travails faced. With his unflagging optimism, the fact that he is visually impaired seems hardly noticeable. Now, with 67 per cent in his Board exams this year, he is applying for the eleventh standard admissions and is grateful to the team at Masoom for boosting his morale and even providing him a writer for the exams. Young minds absorbing knowledge after dark in Mumbai What a wonderful dream,” I think. With teachers like him, surely the children will learn the key life skills of determination and fortitude. “I would like to be a computer engineer,” says Sunita, who has just entered her tenth standard with oodles of hope. Sunita had left school in her village after sixth for a couple of years and returned to Mumbai. With a job of sewing buttons, education seemed to have come to a standstill. With quiet determination, she returned to night school, keen on continuing her education. “The people from Masoom have been a great help,” she says, recounting the counselling and English speaking skills she learnt during her studies.With her grit and record of accomplishment, her dream of studying much further seems real and palpable. The genesis“How difficult it is for these children to continue studying. I don’t know if I could have done it,” Nikita had thought when she first studied the conditions there. Her project was done through a PUKAR fellowship in 2006-2007, and she could have moved on. However, her anguish at the conditions there remained. Issues of nutrition, counselling and motivation were starkly obvious. She had laid them all out painstakingly. But was that enough?The admiration at the heroic efforts of the children, who overcome all odds to continue studying, coupled with her distress at the conditions kept gnawing at her. She never could feel the project was complete though her report was submitted. She kept thinking, “There is no use of this report if it is going to just be filed as an academic project.” With this, came the next step. After all, who could be better at taking the concrete steps that were required than her?Masoom – the beginningThus was formed Masoom, an NGO that works with the night schools in Mumbai. Today, Masoom is a full-fledged organisation providing counselling, holistic growth, and nutrition for the children. It has a presence in six schools in Mumbai.Characteristic of her inclusive nature and the need to get to the root of the problem, the team members are educated through night school and college themselves, and hence know exactly what they wish to address.Nikita’s dream now is to reach all night schools in Mumbai. Knowing her grit and record of accomplishment, it would not be long before this happens. http://masoomforyou.org, firstname.lastname@example.org
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