Inderjeet Khurana

Ashoka Fellow
Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
Fellow Since 2006


This profile was prepared when Inderjeet Khurana was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Inderjit Khurana was founder and principal of the Ruchika Primary School in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, when she began paying special attention to the neglected children who begged for a living on the platforms of the Bhubaneswar railway station. She wished they could somehow experience the rewards of education that her own upper-class students were enjoying at Ruchika. But with their street lifestyle, these platform children would never be able to afford tuition or find access to public schools. One Sunday morning with two cloth bags "full of fun and magic for children " and an innovative idea, Inderjit Khurana stepped onto the railway platform and began teaching. The idea was extremely simple and remarkably effective : rather than working to get children into the schools, why not just bring the school to them?
Within a few months, the "platform school," as it became known, 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. "We were not trying to make academics out of them," explains Inderjit. "We just wanted them to learn numeracy and language up to class III standard. Promising or hard-working children could then continue further to Class V, and the director of public instruction in Orissa agreed that a scholarship could be arranged for students who showed exceptional ability."
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, counseling, 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.
She is now expanding her work to other towns and cities along the railway line and has begun discussions with the Indian Railways to obtain access to their stations nationally.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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