R.K. Beach at Visakhapatnam remains a place of eternal charm with the waves of Bay of Bengal never getting wearied of caressing her and people from near and far reaching to witness this profound expression of love. But people of the neighbouring slums can’t afford this luxury as they have to struggle to win their daily bread and children become the prime target of neglect and lack of care. Many of them are even put to hazardous jobs to contribute to their families’ meager income.
In this drab scenario, Don Bosco Navajeevan stepped in to make a difference in the life of at least a few children whose parents have to sweat it out to maintain their families. With the parents out for work, the elder children are asked to discontinue from school to look after their younger siblings and others with no parental or family follow up drop out from school as education in public schools is not an activity they enjoy too much!
Navajeevan staff contact the parents of such children and convince them that sending children to school is not a loss or futile activity but the greatest investment they ever make for the welfare of their children and for generations to come. The method of teaching and learning in Beach Blossom is not the traditional type of 2+2 = 4, but how the process of reaching that magical figure in ways which are enjoyable for the students. They dance it out, sing it out and play it out. Thus learning becomes a pleasurable activity and children do not run away from the school but run to the school. Here teachers and volunteers are not feared authority figures but friends of the children. They may not come to the school initially to learn but to meet the teachers who love them and whom they love. ‘More flies flock to a spoonful of honey than a barrel full of vinegar’. Don Bosco the great friend and educator of children used to say, ‘Love what the children love and children will love what you love’. Here the teachers sing, dance and play with the children and therefore the children are willing to learn Maths, Science and the other subjects from them.
Don Bosco Navajeevan Bridge School, popularly known as ‘Beach Blossoms’ is conducted in Fishermen Community Hall at Jalaripeta from 2005 onwards. In this period Navajeevan has succeeded in mainstreaming on an average 60 children per year. We don’t claim that all of them are continuing their education, but majority of them are. Even if all don’t complete Matriculation or Intermediate, their one year contact with Navajeevan taught them lessons valid for a life time. We teach them the most important lesson they ever learn, ‘the biggest failure is not failure in subjects, but failure in life’.
Navajeevan also attends to the nutritional needs of the children with midday meal as no effective learning will take place on empty stomachs. Shortest journey to the children’s hearts is through the stomach. Though many of them are attending a school for the first time, the way in which they manifest their talents through exhibitions, painting, dancing, singing, playing etc., are something to be marveled at.
At the end of one year schooling at Beach Blossom, they are placed in classes according to their age, knowledge of subjects, etc. They are also provided with school bags, Note Books, and other stationery items. After they are mainstreamed, Navajeevan staff follow them up, to assure that they are not alone in their journey and to prevent them from becoming dropouts again.
Education is the key to knowledge, freedom and success. Navajeevan by ensuring this to most needy children is contributing its mite to the development of the individual, family and the Nation. The best place for a child to be is in the school or playground, because they are the best ‘Temples of Learning’.