While PRAKASHDEEP began its journey in May 2003, it got formally registered as a trust in 2006. Over the years, Prakash Deep has touched the lives of thousands of children belonging to the poorest of the poor-many of whom had to leave on account of their being part of the floating population of migrant labourers. Many children have returned to find love and a sense of belonging to PrakashDeep. Parents that were reluctant to send their children-who they considered were earning hands for them now willingly send them to our Learning Centres.
Let us look at PrakashDeep's journey so far..........
PrakashDeep’s founder, Dr. Savita Datt, began teaching seven students under the shade of an Arjun tree with a Hindi Alphabet Chart hung on its trunk in a dilapidated park in Sector 21 A, Faridabad, in the state of Haryana, India.
The number of students receiving basic preschool education grew to 40. However, on account of rains, operating classes in the open became impossible. We moved the children to the Market Verandah in Sector 21-A. Sita Pantha, our oldest student became the first teacher-teaching alphabets and numbers.
PrakashDeep was registered as a trust comprising of 7 trustees in 2006 . The number of students rose to 120.
The school was reorganized into seven groups from Nursery to Class IV. The teachers were provided with a single set of books, children were provided with stationery but no individual sets of books.
The number of students increased to 180. Children continued to sit in separate class clusters under the trees in the main park located near the market of Sector 21-A.
A program titled 'Random Act of Services' was started in school wherein the students reciprocated the kindness bestowed upon them by the community by performing acts of service to the society in general.
Class V was added and all the children were provided with individual sets of books, stationery, colouring supplies, drawing pads and school bags.
PrakashDeep Trust partnered with the National Child Labor Project ( NCLP), a central government funded project for the eradication of child labor in India. Under the NCLP mid-day meal program was introduced for the first time. This provided an effective incentive to draw children on the street into the fold of education. 25 Children from another slum that had sprung up opposite the cremation ground, were included in the pre-primary section adding to our strength. The number of students grew even further when children on the street started to walk in by themselves. With the increased number and children coming from different areas, the school started to operate from two different locations to facilitate easy access.
13 students out of nearly 200 of our children were mainstreamed to Goldfield Public School near Sector 21-A. Their education upto the Senior Secondary level was made free of charge after negotiating with the Principal of the institution. The uniforms, books and other supplies for these children were funded by PrakashDeep Trust. Class VI was introduced into the existing “class group”. Children above the age of 14 were enrolled in the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) for the Secondary Course. They were helped by the staff to prepare for one (secondary level) subject at a time so they could clear all the subjects at their own pace while continuing to study in Class VI.
Barclays Capital and United Parcel Services (UPS) provided grants which made it possible for us to rent a shop in the market complex. We set up a library and a computer lab with internet facility there. Children could easily access it because of its close proximity to the market park where our classes under the trees were held. We named it as PrakashDeep Skill Development Center.
The shop where we were running our Skill Development Centre soon changed hands and had to be vacated at short notice. We had to hire another place at an exorbitant rent. The new place though expensive, provided us with more space for running a smart class. Soon we set up a computer lab as well to give our students access to computers. As a consequence parents who were earlier reluctant to send their children to school became convinced that it was better for them to join PrakashDeep and give up rag picking or doing menial jobs to earn petty sums of money. Other fine art activities-like painting, dance, music and gardening were also added.
The number of students touched the six hundred mark in 2015. We had to hire yet another more spacious place to accommodate the students. House Number 441 in Sector 21-A was rented. This was right across the road from our park and children could easily walk to attend numerous classes like computer and smart class, tailoring and craft activities, which could not be carried out in the open air environment. All the students from class one onwards got access to our smart class and students of class six and above were given access to computer learning inside the building. Other classes continued under the trees.
30 children from a nearby slum under the Badkhal flyover were incorporated into PrakashDeep. The new school was set up in the Green Belt adjoining the slum in Sector 21-C overlooking the Asian Hospital. Children could walk in themselves without any escorts. They were allowed to bring their little siblings with them so that their parents would allow them to attend school while they themselves went out to work and couldn’t take care of little babies. We started a crèche and employed another teacher to take care of them.
National Child Labour Project (NCLP) came to an end in 2017 which meant withdrawal of all support to the NGOs working under its umbrella. This left PrakashDeep as well as many other NGOs struggling for survival. The salaries of the staff, the rent and expenses of books, uniforms and stationery which accounted for a large chunk of expenses became impossible to pay from the Trust's resources.
With the help of friends, volunteers and several Corporates and Trusts, PrakashDeep moved ahead. In 2019 in view of the rapid technological advancements taking place in the world, PrakashDeep found itself looking at adding more technological facilities for the children. We added more computers and started classes in Robotics.
However, man proposes-God disposes!
We were in for unknown surprises-originating from China's Wuhan province engulfing the whole world.
In 2020 COVID 19 brought an unprecedented challenge for the entire world. In India the first case of infection was reported in Kerala. As on February 17, 2020, except China, 25 other countries had been affected by COVID-19 outbreak with 70,635 confirmed cases and 1,772 deaths in China.
PrakashDeep was closed down on March 13, 2020!
Not only did our underprivileged children lose out on their studies but also lost out on the sumptuous mid-day meal they got in school. That hurt! Undaunted we started online classes by creating WhatsApp groups and investing in smart phones for children who did not have them.
As the number of cases and death toll increased, PrakashDeep imposed strict COVID norms and provided basic health assistance however, our children who mostly belonged to the migrant laborer population settled in Faridabad had to move back to their villages as their parents lost their jobs and all means of livelihood on account of lockdowns. It was an exodus never imagined! The strength of the school came down to 180 from 750 in no time. PrakashDeep started to distribute dry rations to the needy leftover families.
Online classes continued--some of the children joined from their villages.