It has been five years since Alankrita started running the Pankh Creative School Project in Rishikesh. Everything started with a violent conflict between two boys in Alankrita´s neighbourhood. When she heard the two young boys fighting close to her doorstep she went out in order to intervene. The severity of the situation became clear to her when she found out that the actual reason for the dispute has only been a small pencil: ”From that moment on I knew that some changes need to be done!” the 46 years old Yogini tells me.
Only ten days later around 70 kids from the slums in the area of Rishikesh sat in Alankrita’s backyard. Simply too much for her garden – and way too much for only one teacher!
Unfortunately nobody was willing to support her when she kept asking neighbours and friends for any kind of help.
But as a Yogi knows: faith and persistance always pay off. After accomodating the kids in a temporary arrangement Alankrita met a young german couple in an Ashram nearby.
Dorothee and Christian from Munich were immediately excited about the idea of an educational program for the underprivileged kids in Rishikesh.
Despite administrative burdens they managed founding a non-profit association in their homecountry. BIKI e.V. offers donators from Germany the opportunity to get directly in touch with the Pankh School Project. ”Without the support of BIKI and the donation they get out from charity events we couldn’t survive,” Alankrita confirms. ”This is why our aim is it to form our work as transparent as possible for people who are supporting us.”
Since 2012 the Pankh School Project has been supporting children that are living in the slums of Rishikesh and who don’t have access to any education due to their social status. Besides conventional education the students creativity is promoted: ”Three times a week we are teaching conventional subjects like Maths and English. But besides that we are offering the children dance and theatre workshops, sports activities and Yoga or even public debates where they can unfold their whole potential.”
Entering the space of Pankh School the creative work can be discovered in every corner. Every wall is either colorful painted or spangled with motivating quotes. The teachers commitment confirms this first impression of the school: here they will conscentiously deal with available resources.
Despite the special circumstances I have to admit that I would have wished for such a loving arrangment of my school back then when I was a student.
Besides of 13 classrooms the students have access to a small library and four computers. During summer when everyone in the neighbourhood is in need of air conditioning or fans, electricity becomes a rare good in India. ”We only have one invertor that has to provide electricity and light for 150 students. That’s why they often sit in the darkness during the classes.” One of the next investigations therefore will be a new generator in order to provide all classrooms with proper light.
The lively atmosphere at Pankh seems to be adapted by the children. NAME wants to become an actor one day. His favorite subject in school is geography. ”This is Germany,” he says while pointing his finger on the exact place on the big world map which is hanging on the wall. ”And this is Hamburg, the city you are coming from,” he states and amazes me even more. At the same moment another student shows me a book full of self drawn pictures. His dream is it to fly to Italy one day. ”Rome is the city of arts,” he explains to me. Alankrita will later tell me that after school he is going to work on the fields in order to help his parents.
Unfortunately, destinies such as his are a common occurance at Pankh. Many of them grew up in miserable conditions. They live in the slums, their parents are not able to buy them proper clothes or even food. That’s why many of them suffer from malnourishment. Some of the children are without any prospects and lapse into drug addiction. ”Not that long ago we had a student which we almost lost because of his drug addiction,” Alankrita tells and then sadly adds, ”He was only seven years old.”
But besides the sad stories hidden behind these innocent faces we are witnessing so many beautiful things on this day. The numerous successes taking place at Pankh are quite motivating. ”All of the 150 students are able to read and write now – also in English!” Alankrita states. My conversations with the elder students is just another affirmation of the successful work that is done by Alankrita and the teachers. The kids enthusiasm literally infects me.
The vision Alankrita and her collegues are having is to tap the full potential out of the children. Through donations the school is able to supply materials such as books and uniforms. Also it is possible to support a single student. The amount of 20 euros per month ensures the education of a child until they graduate.
Donations are especially needed at the end of the year. As I hand the donations we collected at a Yoga Session back home to Pankhs school director she admits: ”Until now I was not sure how to pay for the christmas event we will have next week. But now I feel a lot better about it!”
At the time we are leaving Pankh all of the students are running after us. It’s hard holding back the overwhelming emotions coming up seeing those cute faces smiling, and at the same time knowing what kind of struggle they have to face in life. Every sorrow I had the last few weeks just seems so meaningless in this moment. But then I think back to what Alankrita said, her voice in my head, I am reminded of what my philosophy teacher taught us: ”Even if it’s coming slowly. Transformation is taking place. Right now. Every day. All day.”