The first time I visited Parikrma was with a friend who runs 14 schools in Gujarat. He was visiting Bangalore and had recently watched the TED conference video of Shukla Bose, Parikrma’s founder, talking eloquently and passionately about teaching one child at a time in the four schools they run in Bangalore. He was eager to meet Mrs Bose but by the time we called at 9 in the morning, she was already on her way to one of the schools, which was in the opposite direction to where I lived. We decided that the meeting could happen later, perhaps during my friend’s next visit to Bangalore, but we could go to a Parikrma school closer to my home and take a look. And that is how we ended up having an enjoyable, heart-warming and very inspiring school visit to Parikrma.
The Parikrma schools are located inside poor neighborhoods and they serve children from families whose average monthly income (their website says) is around Rs 3000. Or in politically incorrect language, Parikrma serves poor children from the slums of Bangalore. But for the Parikrma schools, these children wouldn’t have experienced even a fraction of the facilities that they are now experiencing. The magic of the Parikrma model is that the facilities available to the children make them not only good at sports and academics but also confident ‘English-speakers’.
Jagadamba, the principal, told us that although the school has no grounds to call its own and the children play in the public parks nearby, their football, athletics and Taekwondo teams have made a name for themselves. A photo on the school website of a young barefoot boy standing first on the athletics podium, between two better dressed and shoe-clad others, summed up the situation nicely. The school doesn’t have much of an infrastructure, but it has lots of talent, lots of hard work, and lots of the winning spirit. My friend immediately offered an all expense paid trip for a contingent of Parikrma children to Ahmedabad to visit the schools he runs there. I later heard that 30-40 children from the four Parikrma schools went all the way to Ahmedabad, had a great time and just to prove the point, comprehensively beat the Gujarat school football team before returning home.
I remember my walk through the simple, unpretentious, box-like three storey school building. For people who equate infrastructure with education, it would be an instructive and inspiring experience to walk through one of the Parikrma schools and meet the enthusiastic teachers and the bubbly, happy children. And yes, they all speak English! I also remember walking into a small, cosy physics lab that had some unsupervised senior children comfortably lounging around as if they owned the place. Very different from my mental image of a school lab; large halls, severe places where you speak in whispers and live in fear of the authorities who prowl around them.
Consider this SMS I got from Shukla Bose after I almost met her on many occasions only to miss her to some sudden travel or other – ‘Arun, sorry for not responding earlier. I had to leave the country once again although it was not scheduled earlier. Return on Tuesday. Let’s meet this week.’
In short, she is a very busy person! And so would you be if you had to:
- Visit the four Parikrma Centre’s of Learning in the four corners of Bangalore.
- Make the effort to keep the children, parents (a majority of fathers have serious alcohol problems) and teachers of these schools on the same educational/developmental page.
- Raise funds for the best-private-school-like facilities that the children get for free.
- Talk in various forums around the world about the exemplary work the school does.
To conclude, I only need to add that Shukla Bose’s busy-ness seems to have paid off in making a success of the beautiful experiment in education called Parikrma.
School name: Parikrma Humanity Foundation
Been around for: 12 years
Number of teachers/staff: About 80 across 4 locations
Number of children: 1500 children from 4 orphanages and 69 slums communities across Koramangala, Jayanagar, Sahakaranagar and Yeshwanthpur in their four schools
Approximate fees per child: Free for children
USP: Catering to slum children and making them ready for the global workplace
Locations: 4 Learning Centres in the north (Sahakarangar), south (Jayanagar), east (Nandhini Layout) and west (Koramangala) of Bangalore city
The author got his degree from IIT Kharagpur in 1988 and is currently a Wipro Education Fellow. He can be reached at email@example.com.