Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Birthday cake from slum children.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are visiting a Hindu temple in New Delhi
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are visiting a Hindu temple in New Delhi

The Prince of Wales has been presented with a birthday cake by a Delhi slum school - the first celebration for his 65th anniversary.

Charles appeared touched by the gift from the pupils and staff who live and work in one of the Indian capital's poorest areas.

Made by master chef Ram Kumar, a professional cook who teaches at the school, and his pupils, the chocolate gateau was decorated with cream, cherries and had the number 65 emblazoned on top.

One of the trainee bakers said they used five eggs in the mix for a high cholesterol treat.

A birthday card signed by many of the children from the Katha Community School was also presented to Charles, who toured the school with the Duchess of Cornwall.

The prince will reach state pension age on Thursday, November 14 and will be claiming his pension this year - but will be donating it to a unnamed charity which supports the elderly.

Charles is entitled to the state benefit because he paid national insurance contributions whilst in the Navy in the 1970s and made voluntary contributions later.

When the royal couple first arrived in the south Delhi slum called Govinpuri, residents lined the road outside the school to welcome them.

The immediate area had been given a makeover in the days before the royal visit.

Piles of rotting rubbish had been cleared from the dusty roads, a white powder insecticide was scattered around and a small open ditch full of sewage from nearby leaking toilets had been filled in.

Govinpuri is one of the Indian capital's biggest slums where large families live in cramped conditions with poor sanitation.

Parvinder Kaur, assistant executive director with Katha, a not-for-profit educational organisation which runs the school, said: "The slum has been here for the last 30 years or more with most of the residents from the area and around 20% are migrants from other parts of India.

"They are usually labourers, carpenters, plumbers and electricians and the population numbers around 200,000.

"There are five to seven people living in very small rooms in small houses off very narrow lanes and the sanitation is not very good, it's difficult for the trucks to travel down the lanes to pick up litter."

The school caters for 700 pupils with 600 attending on a part-time basis studying course like IT and it also provides a creche for 50 children aged three and under.

The head teacher, Geeta Dharmarajan, began running the school in 1990 by offering vocational training to the slum's downtrodden women so they could earn more money and over-rule their husbands' refusal to send their children to school.

Arun Seth, a Katha board member, whose former employer BT funded the growth of the school, said: "When Geeta started, families were not willing to send their children to school. their mothers weren't in control. the fathers wanted the children to become servants.

"She focused on the mothers to give them income so they could fend off the alcoholic fathers."

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