09 Nov 2012
Every time eight–year–old Maya sees a visitor, she shows off her new gifts – a white starched shirt, a maroon skirt and a pair of school shoes. "Today was my first day at school, I was a little scared in the beginning, but I made a lot of new friends," she says coyly.
Maya is among 34 residents of a children’s home in Bandikavanur village, about 30 km from Chennai, who stepped into a school for the first time on Wednesday after HIV played havoc in their lives. They are all children of HIV+ve people. While most of them have lost either or both of their parents, 19 of them inherited the virus. The children – 18 girls and 16 boys – were admitted to a primary school in Thiruvallur district under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’s (SSA) ‘Education for all’ scheme.
For most of these children, the scheme gave them their first shot at leading a "normal" life. "I’ve often stood by the gate of the children’s home and watched school kids in uniforms jostle with one another. I wished I could join them and be their friend, but I wasn’t sure if they would accept me. Today I finally got a chance to be a student," said 10–year–old Mani*, who lost both his parents to HIV.