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New Delhi alternative learning centre gets a visit from Queen Rania of Jordan

© UNICEF/India/ Vipin Kumar
A student from the Ritinjali Learning Centre presents Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah with a handmade gift.

By Savita Varde-Naqvi

NEW DELHI, India, 13 March, 2006 – Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan visited children at the Ritinjali Learning Centre in South Delhi on Friday, the first day of her two-day trip to India. Ritinjali is one of over 3,000 alternative schools in India dedicated to teaching out-of-school children while reintegrating them into the formal education system.

The students received Queen Rania with a cheerful musical greeting. “It is our good fortune that you are our guest today. Welcome, welcome, welcome to you always,” the children sang.

Alternative learning centres such as Ritinjali are the result of the combined efforts of over 180 non-governmental organizations, Indian education authorities and UNICEF. Most of the students come from poor families, a large percentage having dropped out of school in the past. Many are receiving a formal education for the first time.

© UNICEF/India/ Vipin Kumar
Queen Rania Al-Abdullah views artwork created by the students of the Ritinjali centre.

‘The power of collaboration’

Queen Rania, a member of UNICEF's Global Leadership Initiative for Children, mingled with the children at the learning centre, asking them about their hopes and concerns. She viewed their artwork exhibited on display boards and observed a history class on the monuments of Delhi.

“It is heartening to see so many young minds eager to learn, and that is due, in no small measure, to the commitment and vision of the teachers and the community,” she said. “Such initiatives speak loudly of the power of collaboration between international and local NGOs.”

According to UNICEF’s India country office, out of approximately 200,000 children in Delhi who were not in school in 2003, more than 130,000 are now enrolled in alternative learning centres. Over 30,000 students from the centres have been integrated into formal schools.

“We must promise our children that we will do everything in our power to facilitate their dreams and create a path along which they can walk confidently and realize them,” said Queen Rania. “The international community must deliver on that promise.”

Kyria Abrahams contributed to this story from New York.



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