Giving Them a Better Start
Moneylife Digital Team 14 April 2016
Tanuja Deshrajan helps street children learn basic skills so that they get admission into the best government schools
As a young mother, Tanuja Deshrajan was moved by the plight of a group of young children, who were the age of her own toddler son and whose life was about playing on the streets and begging for a living. She began to reflect on the futility of their existence and their grim future and decided that she must make the effort to give their lives the same chance as that of her own son. The way forward was education. 
“I started a school under the shade of a tree with a small number of children. It has now turned into a movement and we have 200 children in our school that has classes up to 5th standard. We also run women empowerment programmes like a sewing centre, a centre to make dry nashtas and adult education programmes.”
Tanuja, with an MSc degree in organic chemistry and an MBA (Master of Business Administration) from IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University), is also involved in a struggle to change mindsets even at home. “The first difficulty I faced was to convince those closest to me—my family. They couldn’t understand why their daughter-in-law wanted to help children of ‘lesser’ families go to school, or why women, in general, should do work of their choice. I believed that if the women and children who needed education understood, everyone else would follow.”
Her perseverance worked and she now provides free education to children at Baliraja Sunrise School, Mainath village (Aligarh district, Uttar Pradesh). Her passion emanates from her strong belief that children must be able to learn, free of cost, and that her own educational qualifications would be of value only if they serve a useful social purpose. “Each of us, who is proud of our teachers and our educational qualifications, should pass on the benefit of education on to children,” she says.
With justifiable pride, she says, “Most people have stories to tell of the education they received in their first 22 years. My story isn’t about that luxury; it is one of providing it. My story is about how I gave the latter 22 years of my life to create and continuously improve the education system in a village called Mainath, and how that still continues to be a privilege.” 
Children at her school are taught with the objective that they should get admission into the best government schools for higher education. This means a focus on quality as well as bringing more children into the fold. The latter is possible by involving their mothers as well. Tanuja explains it best when she says, “We, as a community of people, tend to discriminate on the basis of caste and gender; domestic violence and lack of education for women are a part of life. Our children must also grow out of such mindsets and our women, especially mothers, should move away from this. Our boys, as adults, should be trained to give up such discriminatory attitudes and behaviour.”
Tanuja’s effort to expand her work received support from Vaibhav Lall, chief editor of Rise for India, who has created an online crowd funding platform to raise Rs1.5 lakh for her school to get furniture, stationery, books, computers, sports equipment and library facilities and to pay salaries for the teachers. He says, “Tanuja’s story is not only an inspiration for her village, but for the entire nation. You can also become a part of her story by contributing in the fund raising campaign going on to help her in sustaining the noble initiative.” You can contribute by clicking on  and help change the lives of some children.
Baliraja Sunrise School
Tanuja Deshrajan,
c/o Rakesh Deshrajan
Village – Mainath, Post – Mukundpur,
Agra Road, District Aligarh, 
Uttar Pradesh 202001
Mobile: 9639337566, 9639576766


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