Education is without doubt one of the key ways to lifting people out of poverty. In India, a country of over one billion people and an estimated 400 million living below the poverty line (World Bank 2010), education has become a matter of survival for the millions of children living in poverty in both rural and urban Indian.
Per the 2012 the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER): Learning levels have dipped to an all-time low. So, almost half the 6-7 year-olds (Class I) in India cannot read even one letter in any language, over 57% cannot read any English while almost 40% cannot recognize numbers between 1 and 9, the report said. Access to education is becoming a key problem and obstacle for many of India’s poor children.
Pratham is the largest NGO working in India to provide quality education to the country’s millions of underprivileged children. Pratham’s multi-pronged approach ensures the following four initiatives:
- Enrollment in schools increases.
- Learning in schools and communities increases.
- The education net reaches children who are unable to attend school.
- Models are replicated and scaled up to serve large numbers of children to achieve a large scale impact.
What is so great about Pratham is that they work with the government and view their programs as a supplement not a replacement for education to underprivileged kids. As resources become more and more stretched and more migrants are moving from their rural villages to the slums of urban India, there is a dire need for educational services and Pratham has worked hard at filling the gap. It is no surprise that Pratham’s model is “Every child in school and learning well”.
While we were in India, Jennifer James (Founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good) and I had a chance to visit one of Pratham’s many urban learning centers located in an East Delhi slum, where we witnessed firsthand the dire need of education and the techniques of learning that Pratham is applying to some of India’s poorest children.
The school we visited in one of many Delhi slums is known as a “Hub Center”. Inside the Hub Center, the classes are broken down by age and ability. This Hub Center offers three groups of classes: “Balwadi” (for preschool children where they learn the basics), “Balvachan” (for 6-8 year old children where they learn basic literacy), and English classes for the oldest children (ages 7-14 years old). For very minimal and affordable fees, the Hub Centers also offer vocational courses such as computer skills, the art of henna, and stitching. The classes meet either in the morning or afternoon for a three hour time slot.
The Hub Center we visited was located in a slum in Trilokpuri, East Delhi. There were 150 children inside the center on the extremely hot morning that we visited (temperatures were soaring into the high 40s C/120 F) and a big concern was getting enough ventilation inside the rooms. Yet despite the heat, the smiles and enthusiasm of the children was utterly contagious.
Here is a look inside the school.
Inside the Balwadi (Preschool) room for 3-5 year olds who are learning the basic skills (language, cognitive, emotional, social and physical) to prepare them for school.
The children loved showing off their artwork and also preformed a song for us….
It was wonderful to see what can be done to help children of poverty. The need is so vast it is oftentimes hard to comprehend. Yet at least some of the millions of India’s children were in a happy place receiving their basic human right to an education. Sadly, there are many more desperately waiting for this opportunity.