Smile Foundation has been working for the education of underprivileged children at the grassroots level since the past two decades under its Mission Education centres. This is a significant enterprise by itself. Now, the added obstacles posed by COVID-19 have forced us to quickly adapt to situations and adopt new learning methods to keep our centres going.
The Nai Disha centre of Mission Education is one such institution that has been keeping the dream of education alive for children with negligible opportunities. Here are some of their stories.
Zaheer is a bright 13-year-old student of ME Centre Nai Disha studying in Class 5. His family hails from West Bengal and has been residing in Noida for over 30 years. Zaheer’s father, Md. Basir, works as a tailor. His mother, Reshma Khatun, works as a domestic helper. Before the pandemic, the family’s monthly income was about Rs. 20,000. Now, it has reduced by half.
Zaheer has four older sisters. While two are married, the other two are still students. Limited earnings and so many mouths to feed, along with constant uncertainty about finances and health, is a perpetual cause of worry and struggle in Zaheer’s household. Therefore, the burden on the parents is immense.
Mission Education for Zaheer
The only ray of hope for the parents is seeing their children continue their studies in the face of such adversity. At Nai Disha, Zaheer is exposed to a variety of extra-curricular activities, which contributes to his all-around development. His sisters are receiving higher education after graduating from school. Their parents are conscious of the fact that their children will have an edge over the ones who are not going to school.
Zaheer is a keen student and will give his best wherever he goes. Regardless of the challenges, he is doing well in his studies and performing efficiently in all the assessments. His favourite pastime is cricket. As the family is shifting to Greater Noida, Zaheer plans to continue his education at a mainstream school there.
Mala is a student of Class 5 at the Mission Education Centre Nai Disha. She is a bright 12-year-old who hails from Bihar. Her family has been residing in Noida for about 12 years. Mala’s father, Ashok Kumar Yadav, studied up to Class 8 and now operates a paratha stall. Her mother, Sunita Devi, is a homemaker. Their monthly family income is about Rs. 12,000.
Raising and educating three children on such a limited income is quite a daunting task. Mala’s mother suffers from knee problems, so she is unable to work and supplement the earnings. For such families, private schools are an unaffordable option, especially during the pandemic. Mala has two siblings, an elder brother in Class 8 and a younger brother in Class 3 at the ME Centre Nai Disha.
How Mission Education helped her
The post-COVID scenario in education forced everyone, including Mala, to adapt to new learning methods. However, by the time she was able to use the smartphone efficiently, she lost interest in studies. It was only with counselling and guidance from her teachers, as well as encouragement from her parents, that she started to enjoy and learn diligently through her virtual classes. The textbooks, notebooks, and other learning materials like worksheets and assignments have helped in reviving her interest in studies.
The family has to fight many obstacles on a daily basis. But at least their children are still learning and their education is supported continuously. Her parents are now trying to enrol her into the nearest government school so that her studies can continue seamlessly.
Shanti is a student of Class 5 at the Mission Education Centre Nai Disha. Her family is originally from Nepal but they have been staying in Noida since many years. Babu Ram, her father, is a cook. Her mother, Sushila, works as a domestic helper. Together, they earn around Rs. 12,000 per month. Both Shanti’s parents have studied up to Class 5. She has two elder brothers in Classes 8 and 9. The family stays in a servants’ quarter in Sector 29. The clean living surroundings have a positive impact on the health and development of the children.
The family managed fairly well, managing to educate their children so far. COVID has, however, affected them like everybody else. Shanti’s father was out of work for some months, and thus had no income during that time. The blessing was that they still had a quarter to live in.
Shanti at Mission Education
Her father’s work has now resumed, so there is a ray of hope. Shanti is a bright, conscientious, and well-behaved student, which gives her the zeal to study hard and become a better person in life. She has worked very hard with the efforts of the ME teachers over the years and shown great improvement in her studies. She also participates in speech competitions and other activities.
Shanti wants to be a teacher when she grows up and is keen to continue her studies for as long as possible.