Where did you live in Nagpur

School in India : Thanks to Aneeta Patel, children from the slum can study

Imagine you are born in a slum. Your parents work all day, are hardly there for you, in the evenings they get drunk to escape their everyday lives.

It stinks. Between corrugated iron huts and plastic garbage, you take your first steps and think that you cannot escape this life.
So it was with Rohit. He grew up in a village in the northern Indian province of Uttar Pradesh, and his parents couldn't pay him school fees. He didn't have a perspective, but then he hears about Nav-Jevaan, a place where children can live carefree. Where they can have a real bed, get food and play. When he decides to leave, he knows it will be forever. One day he ran through the jungle.

The Dr. T.S. Wilkinson Memorial School, Nav-Jeevan in the Indian metropolis of Nagpur is a haven for 200 Indian children. Half of them can live in the school's boarding school. The school was founded by three women: Aneeta Patel, her mother and Annelies van de Ven from the Netherlands.

Aneeta Patel is sitting in the salon of her apartment and invites you to a cup of chai. The ambition that you need to make a difference glow in her dark eyes. She is actually a journalist, but she traded her secure income and social status for the opportunity to give children a new life.

Why? “You don't understand what poverty really means,” is the immediate answer. “Real poverty means: you broke your arm and you can't afford painkillers. Real poverty means your brother will die of diarrhea because you cannot pay for the medication. That you eat the lice off your sister's head out of hunger. I saw this up close. That was the reason for my decision, ”she says.

She saw the harsh reality when she researched the parents of two girls whom Annelies van de Ven adopted in the 90s. Every year she went to India with them to show their adopted daughters their homeland. Aneeta Patel's news channel helped track down the family. She lived with five sons in a barrack in the slum. No toilets, no school. Annelies van de Ven, Aneeta Patel and their mother, Iris Wilkinson, agreed: It cannot go on like this. They would start a school for poor children.

Establishing is easy to say. Eleven years passed before the school could be registered by the state. “Corruption and bureaucracy make every step, no matter how small, difficult,” says Aneeta Patel. If you buy a piece of land in India, you can never be sure that it really belongs to the supposed owner. The purchase will be announced in the newspaper to give the opportunity to intervene.

Rohit came two years ago, on foot. Now math is his favorite subject

Again and again there was trouble with the authorities. They threatened jail terms for allegedly running a commercial institution. With donations they were finally able to buy a piece of land in Godhni, on the outskirts of Nagpur. In 2003 they founded the Dr. T.S. Wilkinson Memorial School, Nav-Jeevan.

14-year-old Rohit came two years ago. Alone, on foot. In the beginning, the environment and the rules in the hostel were very new to him. A regular daily routine, always eating enough. “But over time, with the help of the other children, he settled in,” says Annemarie Isbert. He tries hard at school, math and science are his favorite subjects. At some point he wants to invent a new car, preferably solar-powered.

There was a friendship day in August. The children gave each other bracelets. Rohit got one from Anup, a boy who recently arrived. They shook hands as a sign of friendship. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. the children have another lesson, then they are allowed to watch TV for half an hour. At 10 o'clock everyone has to sleep, like in a family. "It is as if you had decided to be happy with the opportunity to go to school," says Isbert.

Many parents do not send their children to school. Because whoever learns cannot beg

Most of the children in Nav-Jeevan want to be doctors or engineers. Both professions promise a high social status and a secure income. Anne and her friend are surprised at the iron will with which the children learn here. They play in the playground with the same zeal.

Still, many parents refuse to send their children to school, says Aneeta Patel. Because if you go to school, you don't have the time to beg. That is why new students today also receive food and medical care. She runs the school, is on the school premises almost around the clock, takes care of the children, and is organized. The children of Nav Jevaan actually have the chance to make something of their lives.

The Dr. T.S. Wilkinson Memorial School, Nav-Jeevan needs a new school bus. Donate at www.betterplace.org.

This is a contribution from our youth editorial team "Schreiberling". Become our friends at www.facebook.de/Schreiberlingberlin or follow us at www.twitter.com/schreiberling_.

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