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Jump to navigation. The red-light area in the narrow dingy Sethbagan Lane, off the busy, congested Chitpur Road in north Calcutta, is always in a state of noisy confusion. Not the ideal location for a school.
But occasionally, rising above the cacophony, is the excited chatter of a few dozen children, reciting nursery rhymes. A school is obviously in progress, the fruit of a unique initiative aimed at giving a new life to the children of prostitutes. Amar Pathshala, the primary school in Sethbagan, has been a pathbreaking institution in many ways. Its immediate surroundings are hardly conducive to learning yet it has evoked an enthusiastic response. Started in but still functioning out of make-shift classrooms, the children's mothers are women who service the local rickshaw wallahs and porters.
They view the school as their only hope for a better future. The success of Amar Pathshala has had an encouraging ripple effect. More voluntary organisations are extending education to the children of red-light areas.
The Society for Community Development has started a home-cum-school for prostitutes' children at Ranaghat in the city's suburbs. And Jana Siksha Prachar Kendra, sponsors of Amar Pathshala, have just started another school-this time in Sona-gachi, the city's biggest flesh trade area. Bhattacharjee, project coordinator of the Kendra. Their success has been doubly sweet, considering the odds the voluntary organisations have had to work against to infiltrate the city's underbelly.
At first, the prostitutes themselves were wary and the pimps extremely suspicious of outsiders. Pradhan, director of the Society for Community Development, had a similar experience. But their perseverance paid rich dividends. Initially the prostitute mothers were reluctant to send their wards to the Ranaghat home, but now they are queueing up. A bond of affection and trust has palpably developed between the mothers and the activists over the years.