Muskan takes us inside the improvised, ramshackle slum dwelling she calls home, and pulls aside the curtain that leads into the bedroom she shares with her mother and siblings. Except there aren’t actually any beds.
‘I sleep wherever I can find a bit of room – there’s no exact place,’ she explains, pointing at the floor.
Muskan, 11, is part of a ragpicking family in a community of migrants from very poor areas of India who live on a garbage dump in Bhuapur. On the outskirts of Delhi, the community has no water supply, proper sanitation, shelter, health or education services.
Life for children is appalling. With their parents exploited and barely able to get enough food to survive, and with many children helping their parents to bring in money for the family, education is a low priority.
But without school, the children will never break the cycle of poverty and deprivation and face a lifetime in the slums. It is essential they receive a basic education and give themselves the best chance for their future.
Phia Foundation aims to provide these children with an education to help lift them out of desperate squalor and deprivation. We aim to reach hundreds of children, providing them with ‘bridge’ schooling and enrolling them into formal schools.
Muskan is one of these children. After starting at the Jugnu education project funded by Phia, she is now attending a local government school from 9am to 3pm each day. She is in Grade 4.
‘They teach us very well [at the government school],’ Muskan says. ‘I want to study all the way to Class 10. I want to be a teacher.’
Her mother Gauri is not quite as ambitious for her bright daughter, although she realises that a good education could be Muskan’s route out of the slums.
‘She’s forward in study. I would like to see her reach Class 7 or 8. That would be enough. And take up tailoring or stitching.’
Phia Foundation programme officer Hemlata Rawat says: ‘We want them to come out of this kind of place. We want them to work in good conditions and have a dignified life.
‘We want these children to continue their education.’
In Bhuapur and other slum areas Phia Foundation will continue to:
- Establish education centres and provide school materials, including books and teaching aids
- Train community leaders to help ensure the effective running of the schools and work with parents to improve understanding on why education is so important for their children
- Provide clean water and healthy food to children to help improve their concentration and learning.