Contributions to teaching profession - Robin Chaurasiya (India)

Helping marginalised girls reach their potential

A former US Air Force officer, Ms Chaurasiya moved to Mumbai and started the Kranti School in 2011.
A former US Air Force officer, Ms Chaurasiya moved to Mumbai and started the Kranti School in 2011.PHOTO: GLOBAL EDUCATION AND SKILLS FORUM

Former United States Air Force lieutenant Robin Chaurasiya, who was born to Indian immigrant parents in Los Angeles, was forced to leave her job several years ago when her employers learnt that she was a lesbian.

Undeterred by the setback, the 30-year-old, who grew up in the US, moved to Mumbai, India, where she started the not-for-profit Kranti School in 2011 for marginalised children, victims of trafficking and daughters of sex workers from the city's red-light district.

Her school, which is funded largely by private donations, caters to teenage girls of different castes, religions, ethnicities, literacy levels and abilities.

Some were abused as children, while others were bought and sold.

Ms Chaurasiya, who was shortlisted as a finalist for this year's Global Teacher Prize, said she understood where these girls were coming from and that the school helps them to reach their potential.

"These girls have so much potential to become absolutely anything that they want," she said, adding that the aim is for them to eventually become agents of social change.

Her school's curriculum includes creative thinking, meditation, writing and music.

There are also evening supplementary lessons in subjects such as English, theatre studies, health education, and information and communications technology.

On weekends, the girls, aged between 12 and 20, get to unwind by participating in recreational activities such as watching films and visiting exhibitions.

In addition, they have to complete mandatory voluntary work with a non-governmental organisation of their choice.

Kranti students do not merely receive support from the school, but have learnt to be activists of change.

For instance, they have led workshops for more than 100,000 participants and delivered 11 TEDx talks around the world on topics such as gender equality and trafficking.

Ms Chaurasiya's efforts for the rehabilitation of her students have not been in vain. With her help, the girls go on to become teachers and community leaders.

"We strive to help these girls find what their passions and talents are, and turn that into sustainable careers," she said.

Calvin Yang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'Helping marginalised girls reach their potential'. Print Edition | Subscribe