Varanasi Boat School – An Ideal Learning Environment for Street Children

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Boat school! In India? How does it look like? How does it work? Questions thronged my mind when I first heard about the Varanasi Boat School. But when I watched this video on the website of Do Right, I started believing in it. See how smile and hope brighten their faces when asked what they are learning in this boat school. However, before we learn more about the boat school in Varanasi let’s take a look at the present scenario regarding education in India. Perhaps it will help us understand the need for more such schools across the country and how such efforts can make a difference.

Education is the guiding light in the darkness of ignorance. It improves our thought process and helps us to think independently without coming under the influence of any social taboos, beliefs and religious and political pressure. The first step to education is literacy. Technically, literacy means functional literacy; knowing 3Rs – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (basic level).

Unfortunately, India has the largest illiterate population (287 million) on earth according to United Nation’s latest Education for All Global Monitoring Report. The number almost equals the entire population of the USA.

After the enactment of Children’s Right to Free Education Act in 2009, Indian government took up various literacy programmes under the supervision of NLMA (National Literacy Mission Authority). The subsequent 2011 census report says the national literacy rate has grown to 74% (Male – 82%, Female – 65%) while the global rate being 84%.

Another disturbing fact is that India, despite having a large percentage of young population, stands 112th on Global Child Development Index 2012 (based on Education, Health and Nutrition rate among children). The rank dropped from a previous 103rd position in 2004.

The above stats are alarming! Lack of education is, perhaps, the biggest challenge in India at present.

Lack of education -> ignorance -> unprotected sex -> overpopulation -> poverty -> malnutrition, unemployment -> increasing crime rate

It seems like a chain reaction the root cause of which is ‘illiteracy’. Many poor families are reluctant in sending their children to school. Instead they would put them into work and make them earn for the family. This is the most painful thing to see children begging for alms on the street or child labourers who have sacrificed their childhood too early.

Therefore, free education for poor children is the need of the hour.

Perhaps it is a mammoth task for the government to improve educational infrastructure so that basic education can be provided for free to every child in the lower strata of the society and ensure a better life for them. The government is working although the success rate might not be satisfactory. But should we just blame it on the government and sit back thinking it’s not my problem? Or is giving alms to street children the solution?

Can’t we, the common people do anything to make a difference for our under privileged children? Yes, we can.

More private efforts and initiatives are needed to make India a better place. Varanasi Boat School is a unique endeavour by Mr Ajeet Singh and his NGO ‘Guria’.  This innovative educational campaign has been named as – Do Right. This novel initiative is taken for a noble cause – to inspire underprivileged kids in learning and education and create an environment where learning will be fun for them.

Now you might think, “Why Varanasi and not any other place”? Well, the journey of doing right is not limited within the periphery of Varanasi. Do Right has started its journey from the Rann of Kutch. After that they have worked for the street children in Pune. Now they have reached Varanasi, the cultural heart of India with an aim to create an ideal learning environment for the city’s street children. If this learning model is successfully implemented in Varanasi it can be developed in other parts of the country in future.

Started in a small scale with small investment Varanasi Boat School has already proved that it has a lot of potential. But a magical transformation is needed to perform in its full potential. The school needs renovation and expansion with larger space and more books, toys and painting kits, which is beyond the capacity of individual effort.

How you can make a difference by doing the right

More funds are required to do the right for these children – to retain the smile that Do Right has brought on their innocent faces. You can help this campaign grow and succeed by donating any amount you want. You can also inspire your friends and acquaintances in donating for Do Right and create awareness for this noble cause by spreading the message in your social networks. Please visit for more details about the campaign.

If you are still not confident that a small contribution can make a difference I would like to share something with you.

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