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Child’s play: Indian street youth develop model banking system

Published time: July 07, 2012 13:13
Edited time: July 07, 2012 17:13

Indian child labourer Ram Singh (C) waits at the children's Development Khazana (treasure chest) counter to deposit his money at a children's bank after he finished his work at a tea shop in the old quarters of New Delhi (AFP Photo / Sajjad Hussain)

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A group of kids in a shelter for homeless children in New Delhi have a few lessons for the world's international bankers. They have invented a financial system of their own to save for a brighter future.

­In a shelter for homeless runaway teens in New Delhi, a tiny, self-starting democracy has sprung up.

The residents have created an unlikely society where everything from healthcare to banking has been initiated, implemented and executed by the kids themselves.

“There are children who have a job and they deposit their money in our bank and even the children who go to school save their money,” explained bank manager Satish Kumar.

Satish Kumar’s peers elected him to be bank manager of this branch of the children’s development 'khazana' (Indian for 'treasure') that serves around 9,000 street children across South Asia and has 77 branches in the region.

Many of the runaway teens now have a place to safely keep their money, save for the future and take out development or welfare advances to invest in starting businesses or buying books for school.

Mohammad Shah, a 12-year-old bank client, told RT that he has taken an advance three times.

“The first time I took 500 rupees to buy the school uniform and other things, the second time I took the advance because my mother was sick. I took 1000 rupees and got the necessary check up done for my mother. The third time I took the advance was because I had to repay some money I had borrowed to help my father open a shop,” he said.

The kids have a monthly meeting where they review applications for those who wish an advance and then, based on their track record of saving and earning, they decide who to grant the advances to and how quickly they need to pay it back.

In a time when many people would argue that the global financial system is on the brink of collapse and that the system itself might be fundamentally flawed, it seems like these teenagers from the streets of New Delhi have the whole thing figured out. They hold everyone from the account managers to the clients accountable for their financial decisions.

Through meetings and discussions over lunch the children have taught each other how to save and invest in their future:

“I think that if we don't put the money in the bank then we tend to spend it on unnecessary things and waste the money. So when we save the money it can be used to do important things that may come up in the future like buying new clothes,” Sameer, a bank client, shared.

It’s a sense of responsibility and survival that has shocked the supervisors of the shelters themselves and one that they say leaders around the world might want to take a look at.

“They can be the super models in this whole thing because they know how to save money. They know how to utilize money for the best because they learn how to prioritize their needs, which we as adults actually don’t know,” Sharon Jacob from “Butterflies” child rights non-profit organization said.

Mohammad Shah is hoping that he can save the money he makes selling bottles of water at night to put towards his education so he can one day accomplish his goal of becoming a policeman.

“I am thinking for the future as I want to save the money and do some thing useful with it when the time comes,” he says.

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