As a schoolteacher, Inderjit Khurana used to take the train to work. Everyday, in the stations, she would see children who spent their days begging from train passengers rather than attending school.
She knew that these children wouldn’t let go off their money earning avenues to attend school and without education they would not be able to elevate themselves from poverty. So she decided to take the school to these children and thus was born the “train platform school” with the formation of the Ruchika Social Service Organization in 1985.
Inderjit’s teaching plan integrated entertainment into the curriculum to attract children’s attention, leading field trips, using simple flashcards to teach reading, and allowing the children to come and go when they need to.
As the Ashoka India puts it,within a few months the platform school had over 100 students sitting within its chalk-drawn boundaries, all absorbed in the song, dance, drama, music and puppetry that was helping make them literate.The idea was to provide basic literacy to them and not to make academics out of them.
But as Inderjit encountered children pained by hunger, deprived of medical care, or lapsing into drug use or prostitution, she realized that one cannot educate children who are not healthy enough to learn. Education for these destitute children must be accompanied by a program of medical aid, counselling, basic job training, recreational activities, and for some even shelter. So she integrated these elements as needed into her informal educational centers and expanded into the slums. She also gradually extended her work backward from the platforms to the children in the slums and their families.
Over the years volunteers joined her and the services expanded into training courses for new workers; a drop-in shelter for abandoned, orphaned, and runaway boys eight to fourteen years old; a medical center (closed for lack of funds) ; and day care, counseling, and vocational centers- all located in the slums where they are most accessible to the children who need them.
She started special training for children who could not continue formal schooling for jobs like home office lunch serving positions (as cooks and delivery boys), hotel work (as laundry men, porters, bellboys, waiters) tailoring, cooking and jobs and other income-generating schemes for slum children. Additional vocational training programs are refrigeration, plumbing, printing press operators and car repair training.
Inderjit khurana received the National Award for Child Welfare for the years 2003 and 2004 She was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003 and was awarded the World Children’s Honorary Award, in 2007.
Inderjit khurana passed away on 26th October 2010. But the organization she left as her legacy continues to work towards educating children through the train platform schools.