I was looking through some statistics on the World Bank website. There is a table that outlines the schooling status of slum children in India. These slums are part of urban anthillls like Delhi, and are the areas most devastated by poverty.
The statistics, which I believe to be from 2009, prove startling. Slum children that never attended school by age 14 are calculated to be at 13.2 percent. School drop-out rates skyrocket from 4.3 percent at age 11 to 22.6 percent by age 12. That means there are five and a half times more dropouts once children hit age 12 as opposed to 11.
That seems to be the age that many of the slum children are compelled to work to add to their family income. This BBC news article explains some of the poor living conditions in Dehli slums. The article states that a third of the world’s malnourished children live in India. With rising food costs, parents struggle to feed, let alone educate, their children. Education becomes a lesser priority, and those children grow up to become adults who cannot find jobs to support their families. The cycle continues.
And, from what has hopefully been learned in my previous India post, the Indian government mandates that free schooling be at least available to all children without discrimination. It’s a great idea on paper, but when children are tasked with helping their parents feed their family, schooling is not the greatest focus, and justifiably so.
But a good thing has been happening in the last few years. There are now charity orgranizations that wheel buses into slums and pick up slum children for a time of teaching that won’t necessarily interrupt the children’s ability to hold their jobs. According to the Reuters article, many of the children let in by these buses have odd jobs that occupy them instead of school, to help their families.
Reuters: “These children have no time to go to school, unless the school comes to them,” said T.L. Reddy, founder of the CLAP Foundation, a non-governmental organization that runs the mobile school.
The buses park it in a dusty slum. Sometimes the buses are so full that the floors are covered with children sitting cross-legged, eager to learn. The bus interior is adorned with alphabet letters and numbers, according to Reuters.
Reuters: “The teaching is good in this bus and nobody beats us,” said 10-year-old Devi, who enrolled in the first grade of primary school three years ago but soon dropped out.
In hopes of educating and streamlining drop-out children into governmental schooling, the bus program had already made it possible for 40 students to so, as of the article publishing date in November.
Al Jazeera provides an informative newscast on the charity bus program:
It is refreshing to see some good being done for slum children, even if it is a little. If an ounce of hope is the surge we need to drive us forward with providing more aid and more assistance, then I am especially grateful for the program.
As an endnote, I thought I’d include the link for a book that touches on this topic. It’s the first book on my spring break reading list!