Beyond Money
A thought for school

An organisation which helps to school underprivileged children

The high dropout rate of children from government schools is a serious issue in India. Additionally, poverty ensures that parents are unable to send children to school. To alleviate this, Shobha Murthy started Aarambh in 1997. An NGO working in the slums of Turbhe (Navi Mumbai), it enrols underprivileged children in schools and provides them free tuition. Aarambh, in Sanskrit, means beginning. “These children are the first generation in their families to go to school. So the name,” says Ms Murthy, a founder-trustee.

“It was a new start to my life as well,” says this chartered accountant who had earlier worked as an auditor with USAID in India. That job gave her an opportunity to visit many tribal villages in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of India which kindled her interest in social work. She joined CRY (Child Relief and You) to learn about the legal and other facets of social work in India, with a clear aim to start an NGO of her own. It was while working with CRY that Ms Murthy set up Aarambh with Dr SS Rao, a medical practitioner, and Sudhir Sudhal, a qualified social worker. Ms Murthy used all her savings to fund the project. She continued with CRY (until 1999, when she quit) working for two hours each evening teaching at Aarambh. “When I approached the education officer of Thane Zilla Parishad, he supported my idea and encouraged me to start the NGO,” says Ms Murthy.

Initially, she faced resistance from the communities. “A major problem with most children was the lack of a birth certificate without which they could not enrol in a school. Convincing parents of the importance of schooling was another major task,” she says. Aarambh began by issuing medical certificates and requested education officials to accept these and admit students to municipal schools.

Everyday, four to five students enrolled with Aarambh. Municipal schools also saw a considerable increase in students. Ms Murthy proudly says, “The first batch of students just graduated. I feel so proud when I see them.” One such child is Vijay Ranbavle who was extremely naughty and didn’t want to go to school. Aarambh persuaded him to study and he is now a graduate employed at JP Morgan. “Vijay still visits us and even helps us in our projects,” says Ms Murthy.  
Today, Aarambh has six centres in Turbhe and other nearby areas with about 2,000 children. “I remember the school consisted just of three-four rooms. Today, it is a whole building, with many students attending regularly,” Ms Murthy says. Currently, Aarambh runs pre-school classes along with a daily a mid-day meal programme. “The mothers work as maids and come home late in the afternoon. Till then, these kids are without any food. So we started mid-day meal for them, comprising vegetable-based khichidi and fruits,” Ms Murthy says. Aarambh assists students to secure free admission to an English medium school in Vashi, Navi Mumbai. Others are also enrolled in Hindi and Marathi medium government schools.

Aarambh has skill development programmes for youth including vocational courses like screen-printing and making paper products as well as computer courses and leadership training. It also provides placements for the youth it trains. Around 170 youngsters are enrolled in such programmes free of cost. Aarambh also runs skill-development, job-oriented and income-generation courses for women such as tailoring, embroidery, candle-making, etc. Through savings and self-help groups, women are encouraged to open and operate their own bank accounts. Aarambh also conducts periodic health check-ups and other awareness campaigns for the locals.

One can volunteer as a teacher, act as personal tutor for a child and even help in coordination. You can donate in kind as well as financially. All donations are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80 (G) of the Income-Tax Act.

AARAMBH
33/B, Gitanjali
Plot 52, Sector 17, Vashi
Navi Mumbai 400 703
Tel: 022-2768 0965
Cell: 98206 16940
www.aarambh.org
[email protected]

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COMMENTS

Rakesh Gupta

5 years ago

Mrs. Shobha Murthy's efforts in the Turbhe Slum Area is noteworthy. She has been working in this area for a long time now, and the results are bearing fruit.

We, from the Rotary Club of Navi Mumbai, recently donated "Safe Drinking Water" Filtration-equipment and Storage tanks to the school.

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