Growing up in Ambedkar Nagar, a slum neighborhood in south Mumbai, Phatima Sattar Mulla used to think about what it could be wish to placed on a clear college uniform and go to highschool. Instead, she would accompany her mom and 6 siblings every day to the Sassoon Docks, the place she labored peeling prawns.
But then in 1999, when Phatima was eight years outdated, an organisation referred to as the Door Step School (DSS) answered her prayers.
Now 29, Phatima has a grasp’s diploma in social work and a job within the discipline of rural growth, well being and vitamin.
“I chose to study social work, inspired by what the Door Step School does,” she says. “The teachers and volunteers could have worked anywhere else, but the fact that they choose to do this difficult job, giving children like me a fair chance in life, is what made me choose this field.”
Each day, Phatima would go to the native balwadi (preschool) run by the DSS. It was a small room within the slum, furnished with a blackboard and charts, some toys and books.
“We sat on mats on the floor and my teacher used to hold my little fingers and guide me as I wrote the alphabet on my slate,” she remembers.
“I learned shapes and colours through songs and pictures. This early attempt by them to change my life had ripple effects, seeing me through school and college. DSS impacted my life forever by giving me a route out of poverty, and the milieu that I was thrust into.”
‘Let the school come to them’
It was youngsters like Phatima that Bina Sheth Lashkari had in thoughts when she based the Door Step School.
In 1988, Bina was learning for her grasp’s diploma in social work and volunteering in authorities colleges when she observed the excessive drop-out fee of kids who lived in slums – typically nothing greater than makeshift shanties on building websites. These youngsters had been required to assist their households as an alternative of going to highschool, both by working at odd jobs or by taking care of youthful siblings whereas their dad and mom had been away at work.
In India, the suitable to education for all youngsters aged 6 to 14 is enshrined in regulation, however authorities colleges don’t all the time attain youngsters residing in distant areas, on the streets or in slums. Furthermore, dad and mom are usually not all the time conscious of their rights.
Other youngsters had been lacking out on education as a result of they moved incessantly from metropolis to metropolis with their dad and mom who wanted to maneuver to search out work, and had been by no means enrolled in class.
Their plight gave Bina the concept that, “If children can’t go to the school, let the school come to them.”
With her colleague, Rajani Paranjpe, she began by providing casual classes in letters, numbers and language abilities to a small group of 25 college students from the migrant Banjara neighborhood, at Cuffe Parade in Mumbai.
The thought was to offer the youngsters with nonformal training, for them to be taught to learn and write, in order that they might not be exploited by unscrupulous employers who may underpay them or shopkeepers who may overcharge them, in addition to to assist them in direction of the aim of attending common college ultimately.
Their thought for the Door Step School – so named as a result of academics would actually fetch youngsters from the doorstep – grew into a preferred instructing scheme for deprived youngsters in and round Mumbai. It has produced many success tales like Phatima.
Passing it on
Vinod Chavan, 26, grew up in a slum neighborhood in South Mumbai, residing together with his mom and three brothers.
“I started working in a tea stall when I was aged eight, earning 300 rupees ($4) a month, which was a significant income for my family,” he explains.
“I one way or the other managed my research with the assist of the academics of the DSS, and began working in an ice cream store after I was 11.
“Today, I have a degree in commerce and I am a restaurant manager in a food company,” he says.
Vinod desires to make it possible for different deprived youngsters additionally get the probabilities he had.
“I want to give back to the community, and have started a foundation called the Dream To Achieve Foundation, which helps the children of ‘pavement dwellers’ – those who sleep rough on the streets – and other underprivileged children,” he explains.
The basis works to develop youngsters’s confidence and helps with the practicalities of enrolling them in class. It additionally runs vocational programs in areas comparable to journey and language programs to assist them get a job when they’re older.
Twenty-seven-year-old Shivraj Chavan can also be a graduate of the DSS. He was enrolled in it in 1997 when he was 4 years outdated. His dad and mom had been building employees. Later, at age seven, he enrolled on the authorities college and attended after-school lessons supplied by DSS, in addition to doing soccer coaching and performing avenue performs.
Now, with a grasp’s diploma in commerce, Shivraj works as an accountant and plans to pursue a regulation diploma sooner or later. “I owe a lot of my success to DSS, which shaped me and gave me a chance to pursue my dreams,” he says. “What it gave me is the chance to change my path, and come out of poverty and my social environment.”
From modest beginnings
Since it started in 1988, the Door Step School has grown from its authentic, easy thought. “In the early days of DSS, our teachers went from door to door to fetch the kids, as we did not have any permanent room or building or any school bell,” Bina explains. “We chose teachers who were passionate about social work and teaching children, rather than just having a teaching degree.”
In the early days, lessons had been very often held on pavements, beside the dustbins, utilizing no matter area the academics may discover close to the youngsters’s properties. “There was no literacy component in the early days. All we wanted was that these children who had never got a chance to attend school, at least know how to count or be able to identify signs that they saw,” Bina says.
“The teaching approach was very practical – we started off teaching them relevant things from their everyday lives, like how to calculate their daily earnings. One of the most impactful instances that I remember is a young girl who was working, cleaning fish, and she corrected her employer when he wrote 3kg instead of 5kg of fish against her name. She shared her elation at being able to stand up for herself and not be exploited by her employer,” Bina remembers with delight.
“I don’t expect too much change in the first generation that we teach. If there is, it’s a bonus,” she says. “But it will definitely impact their children, who will have a literate parent to guide them.”
Today, DSS, which additionally operates a “school-on-wheels” undertaking, runs greater than 200 centres – normally single rooms on building websites or in slums – in Mumbai and Pune. They goal youngsters within the early years – between the ages of three and 6 – to organize them and their dad and mom for varsity, ensuring they be a part of a faculty by the age of seven. Children are supported with after-school lessons in the event that they want further assist. The centres additionally work with older youngsters, who by no means bought an opportunity to go to highschool or are dropouts.
DSS goals to assist youngsters from deprived backgrounds, and goes to wherever the youngsters could be discovered – from these residing tough outdoors railway stations or on footpaths, to slums and building websites, and even flats the place their dad and mom are home servants.
Schools on wheels
The schools-on-wheels undertaking, which started in 1998, is a transformed bus fitted with cupboards stuffed with stationery, provides, toys and books. Every bus has a instructor and supervisor and each stops at 4 preassigned places every day. Today there are seven bus-schools working in Mumbai and 5 in Pune.
They attempt to attain underprivileged youngsters in neighbourhoods with out entry to training. Each cell class lasts for about three hours, and their college students embrace ragpickers, balloon sellers, shoe polish boys and different avenue youngsters.
“When they see our parked bus, they run towards it – to read, sing songs or learn basic concepts for a couple of hours each day,” says Bina.
“Sometimes the children are taken on field trips like museums or to the zoo or even to the police station, so that they understand and [do] not just fear law enforcement.”
Ashwini Pawar, who’s 12 and lives in central Mumbai, research in school six.
“I have books to read, we say prayers and sing the national anthem,” he says. “Teachers teach us from picture charts and we have writing competitions. I love coming here because it’s so much fun.”
‘We have to convince the parents’
Not all dad and mom are eager on the concept, nonetheless.
“With the school-on-wheels project, our jobs were more difficult, as we had to start with hygiene, cleanliness … and then attract the students to learning,” Bina explains.
“Many instances, the dad and mom would take their youngsters away for some work. Some dad and mom had been abusive, used foul language and it was difficult for us and our academics to deal with them.
“Parents would hide their kids and say that they are not at home, or that they want to send them to work and not to school. We have had to convince them about why education is important. Increasingly, however, the children who started enjoying our classes would fight with their parents to attend school.”
But Bina says they’ve seen a optimistic change over time, with many dad and mom coming to worth their youngsters’s training.
“They are initially reluctant however later turn into very co-operative and supportive of our endeavour. Regular conferences with the dad and mom is a should and we foster understanding and respect for training by that.
“Our former students are the best ambassadors for our schools as when they share their journey from poverty and illiteracy into a better life for them and their parents, it inspires others too.”
One programme that DSS runs is the Bal Samuha, a youth group that helps former pupils to develop management abilities that may profit their communities.
Phatima says that she honed her management abilities and grew her confidence by this programme. “I worked on many initiatives with others in my community, from arranging for regular garbage collection, to persuading people who employed girls from villages as housemaids to send them to school. We did school plays, dealt with problems in the slums and helped each other to learn and grow,” she says.
Another main problem is the associated fee. “Sometimes finding the money to run programmes really becomes tough,” says Bina, explaining that as a result of the colleges are run by an NGO, they depend upon donors for funding.
“We pay all our teachers and supervisors, we buy teaching materials, toys and books, and we also train our teachers regularly. The centres are usually rooms that we pay rent for. In the case of the school on wheels, there are the added costs of fuel, drivers and insurance,” she explains, including that their donors come from India and elsewhere.
DSS has additionally developed deep connections with authorities colleges. “We … run programmes in tandem with them to ensure good sanitation facilities, and to teach good hygiene and eating habits to young students of government schools,” Bina says.
The success of DSS has impressed some communities to call streets in slums like Ambedkar Nagar, Hiranandani Akruti Chawl in Govandi and slums in Cuffe Parade after youngsters who’ve turn into excessive achievers.
Rehmuddin Shaikh, who lived in Ambedkar Nagar, was a faculty dropout who attended classes with DSS. He went on to turn into a state-level rugby participant, and a coach for the state ladies’s rugby staff. An alley in Ambedkar Nagar has been named after him. His story has impressed different youngsters from the slum.
“It’s not easy living in the slums or on a footpath and not have access to schools or education,” says Bina. “Children can go astray, get into medicine or crime, or just lose motivation.
“What is very heartening at the end of the day is the change that we see in the trajectory of a child’s life, and how he or she can rise above their circumstances.”