Educating Children In Urban Slums

Poverty in India is of an extraordinary size. Seen from a global perspective, there are more poor people in the 8 poorest states of India than in the 26 poorest Sub Saharan African countries. With children making up over one-third of the population it means that tens of millions of children are affected. While education is recognized as an important ladder out of poverty, almost 20% of children do not attend school and the majority that do enrol drop out before they reach the secondary level.

Phia Foundation is working with children in a rag-picking community based on the outskirts of Delhi in Bhowapur.This is where a large number of rag picker families reside, and provide the service of collecting and segregating urban waste from surrounding households. An estimated 5,000 people live in the slum. The community is made up mainly of migrating populations from Bihar and West Bengal. Basic amenities such as, housing, electricity, water supply, health and sanitation are non-existent for this community.

Through this project, Phia is enabling children in this slum to attend ‘bridge schools’ in Bhowapur. These are small scale education initiatives that provide children with enough education to get back into main stream schools.

We provide books and teaching aids, train community leaders to run the schools effectively and work with parents to stress the importance of education. Without even a basic education these children are likely to follow the path already undertaken by their parents. To help these children to break out of the cycle of poverty, it is essential that they receive a basic education and give themselves the best chance for their future. No education can happen with malnourished and empty stomach. By providing clean water and nutritional support (such as fruit) to children, we help and ensure that children attend the education centre and are able to concentrate and learn when they are there.

At our bridge school centres, children within the age group of 3- 14 years are provided with basic education divided into two levels:

  • Elementary level education for children within the age group of 3-6 years
  • Primary level education for children within the age group of 7-14 years.

Through this project Phia has been able to support 180 children as on day and 67 children from the bridge school have been enrolled back into the main stream schools and their progress is monitored and supported through remedial classes.

Phia also organises capacity building trainings for fellows and parents on issues of programme implementation, social welfare schemes for children, etc. Children are taken through various activities where they can explore their creativity through singing, dance, drawings, rangoli making, etc. They are also taken out for educational and recreational excursions where they get to know about the outer world and enjoy the outings.

Health Initiatives

Members of the rag-picking communities live in unhygienic conditions and do not have access to basic health services. While government hospitals are either situated at a distance or have inadequate healthcare facilities, the community members are unable to afford consulting private medical practitioners. In order to address this healthcare gap, two health camps – one focusing on Dental care and other on general health – were organised with support from Gripple India. Representatives from the Department of Dentistry at JamiaMillia University and doctors from Delhi’s dispensaries provided consultation to the patients. A total of 180 children were covered at the Dental care camp and around 187 community persons were checked by doctors in the general health camp – 62 male patients were checked by a general physician, 36 female patients by a gynaecologist and 89 children by a paediatrician. Phia under its mandate of supporting the poor and marginalised also provided warm blankets to the children to help them get through the winter months when the temperature dips dangerously close to freezing

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