Intro: Smt. Latha Rao aged 40 years looks like a next door homemaker. The only difference being, she is now on a nation building mission to educate street children.
Intro:”After noticing the plight of the children of
labourers who were constructing our house, I
decided to work in thisdirection” said Latha Rao
Bengaluru popularly known as the 'Silicon Valley of India' is the hub of Information Technology (IT) sector in the country. No wonder young people from across the country dream of joining big companies in Bengaluru to pursue their career in IT and earn fat salaries.
But here is a story of a woman software engineer who takes a break from her IT job for raising her baby but changes her mind not to return to her cushy IT job to walk the path of nation building by educating children of construction workers to eradicate illiteracy, and to help them become self reliant.
Mrs. Latha Rao aged 40 years looks like a next door home maker. The only difference being, she is now on a nation building mission. She does not waste time watching TV serials or engages herself in kitty parties. She and her likeminded friends run study centres to eliminate illiteracy among street children.
When she leaves home every day at 9am, people thinkshe might have resumed her job in the IT Company but she lands up in the newly started big housing projects in and around poornapragna layout, at Uttarahalli Main road near chickallasanadra, in Bengaluru, the area where she lives. There she meets building construction workers and persuades them to send their children to her 'study centres' in the vicinity.
Her first study centre ran for five years in a shed adjoining Anjaneya Temple in Poorna Pragna layout. She remembers in gratitude the support given to her by Sri Hayagriva Acharya, President of Poorna Pragna Resident's Welfare association and other members for providing her a place for running her study centre.
The study centre moved to AGS Layout slum for a year, and to Rajajarajeshwari nagar for next few years. Now her centre is running in a garage space in a home situated in Happy Valley layout.
These study centres are managed in temporary premises close to the apartment blocks under construction. As the construction work gets completed, the study centres also moves to new areas where other projects start. The idea is to have a study centre close to their work place so that more and more children can enroll.
There is a team of dedicated teachers and volunteers like Vijaya Lakshmi and Shyla who have joined hands with Latha Rao to eduacate the street kids.
When asked about her experience in dealing with the labour class in propagating the importance of education for their wards, she said, “It is very difficult to convince construction workers to send their children to our study centres. They feel that their children especially boys should learn to work like them and start earning as early as possible.”
“But the trend is changing” she asserts, “After seeing other children acquiring knowledge about language and numbers, their heart melts and they agree to send their children to our camp,” Latha Rao said.
Meeting construction workers and creating awareness about education is just the beginning. She has to find a suitable place for running a study centre, arrange for sponsors who can donate books, bags, toys, charts, black board and other study materials in times to come.
According to Latha Rao, a renowned social service organisation named 'Youth for Seva' (YFS) with a Pan India presence is generous towards her by sponsoring bags and books every year. YFS is the backbone of the project as it takes care of the finances and provide volunteers whenever she needs them.
“I am grateful to Mr. Madan Buldota who has offered a piece of land at the Happy Valley Layout free of cost and for constructing the shed. We will move into our own premises shortly” she said.
She considers three factors to have inspired her to begin journey on the new path. The first incident was when she and her husband, Mr. Srisha Rao who is working in IBM started constructing their new home in poorna pragna Layout in the year 2007. She noticed that the children of construction workers building their house were loitering here and there but their daughter Apoorva was going to pre-school.
“After noticing the plight of children of the labourers who were constructing our house, I decided to work in this direction” said Latha Rao.
Second, her thoughts got feathers when she met Smt. Rukmaniyamma, a retired Government teacher who was working in the same direction.
“I was truly inspired by Rukmaniyamma who was tirelessly working in her own capacity by trying to teach poor children who came in her contact. She is the main motivation for my mission” says Latha Rao.
When Rao started her work initially, she did not have any idea how big her project could grow. But she got an important break when she met Smt. Roopa Srinivas in the year 2009. Roopa Srinivas was in US for 12 long years and returned to India with an inclination to work for society. The combination of Latha Rao and Roopa Srinivas started providing preliminary education to small children in their study centres and started admitting children in Uttarahalli Government School when children attained the age of 5 years. The same parents who were unwilling to send their children to study centres run by Latha Rao and Roopa Srinivas, started looking for construction work in and around study centres so that their children could continue their studies.
R Guru Prasad (The writer is Bengaluru based journalist)