Dreams no bar for kids at prison play school

August 2nd, 2011 - 12:27 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 2 (IANS) “I want to be a doctor,” murmured five-year-old Guddu Kumari, flashing a shy smile and then hurrying to the rest of her classmates resting in the L-shaped play school at the women’s prison in Tihar Jail, India’s largest prison.

Like Kumari, the other 29 kids at her play school, The Creche, cherish dreams of becoming doctors, journalists, police officers or engineers some day.

Beautifully decorated with colourful posters of cartoon characters on the walls and toys all over, the play school and a nursery at Jail No. 6 is spread out into two huge L-shaped rooms. It houses 39 children, including 10 who are less than two years old.

“The Creche and the nursery are run with the assistance of NGO India Vision Foundation. There are proper recreational and educational facilities for the children,” Deputy Inspector General R.N. Sharma told IANS.

The children below two years of age are taken care of by NGO workers and are provided with food, medicine and clothes. “They are kept in a cosy environment, away from the cells,” he said.

Children over two-and-a-half years are given education at The Creche. “It is a play school. We provide all the facilities,” said counsellor Ruby Gupta.

Looking smart in their uniforms - white and pink checked shirt and shorts, white for boys and pink for girls - the children sit on benches and are taught subjects like Maths, Hindi and English on a white board.

“They are taught while they play,” Gupta said.

From 8 a.m. till 5.30 p.m., the children are involved in various activities, which include painting and dance classes. They also watch cartoon films on TV in the play school.

“They are provided breakfast, lunch and light snacks during evening,” Sharma said.

Ruby Gupta and Tulika Kiran, counsellors-cum-teachers from the NGO, take care of the children. Two educated undertrial inmates also take a few classes.

Motherly affection sometimes attracts jailed DMK MP Kanimozhi to the children. “She spends some time teaching these kids when she is not away in the court,” Kiran said.

The kids are also taken for educational exposure trips across the city.

“They have been taken to various monuments, embassies and gardens in Delhi. These regular visits make them feel they are not prisoners by default and they enjoy themselves,” Gupta said.

Education not just helps them aspire to make it big some day but also comes as a big relief to their mothers who want their children to lead fulfilled lives.

“I am happy that my daughter is studying. Seeing your child grow in the jail is the worst thing for any mother, but I know better things are in store for her,” said Dolly Agarwal, an undertrial in a murder case.

For the last 16 years, The Creche has served the purpose of imparting education and moral values to kids in the jail that houses 12,000 prisoners, almost twice its capacity, making it one of the largest prison complexes in the world.

“When the child is more than six years, with the consent of their mother prisoner, he or she is admitted in a boarding school with assistance of some NGOs,” Sharma said.

So far, 193 kids, who have spent their early days at The Creche, are now pursuing higher studies at various schools and colleges across the country.

“A few of them are doing management studies, journalism and engineering,” India Vision Foundation organising secretary Monica Dhawan told IANS.

A few are also preparing for Indian Administrative Services (IAS) examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 484 children of convict women prisoners and 1,639 children of undertrial prisoners were lodged in various jails across the country in 2008.

(Sumit Kumar Singh can be contacted at sumit.s@ians.in)

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