Children in our country do not receive everything that children in first world nations do, and we are all aware of this. We know that underprivileged children in India have to struggle to put a morsel in their bellies. Their parents are engulfed with similar worries. Poverty pushes some communities to the brink and they fight their circumstances with all their might to keep from falling over the edge. The people from these communities are so occupied with fending for themselves, focussing on basic needs for survival that they do not even consider education a benchmark that they would like to reach. The only thing they wish for is their own survival and that of their children, and once this challenge seems to be conquered, they shift to attempting to put roofs over their heads. For them, the more working hands, the more money can be drawn in and the faster they accomplish this task. Their children join them in their daily labour while their hands are still too small to lift bricks or till fields. They are trapped in a vicious cycle and suffer knowing that their children are fated to live the same lives they loathe so much, and are reluctant to believe that there is a way out.
In the slums of Pandav Nagar area teachers and volunteers from Smile Foundation’s Mission Education centre, Pragati Wheels School, constantly counselled parents of underprivileged children, attempting to convince them that their children did not have to live the frugal life they themselves did. All they would have to do was sacrifice the income that child labour would have brought them or keep from marrying off their daughters before they were old enough to decide if they really wanted to be dependent on a man themselves. After several door-to-door visits and a long struggle to make the parents understand the benefits of an education, today over 200 children from the slums of Pandav Nagar area in East Delhi are brought to school.
Seeing the little boys and girls sitting under the shade of a few trees on the banks of the Yamuna River, obediently looking at the white board before them is a rather picturesque scene. Several classes are carried out simultaneously and the teachers give their students individual attention. It is rather surprising to see only happy faces as these children make their notes, elated with the fact that they know more today than they did yesterday, and always eager to answer any question asked.
Most of these children belong to poor migrant families who work as labours in the nearby fields for a meagre income and reside in tiny shacks with leaky roofs. Some of them come from little settlements even further off, hidden within foliage and far from most of the educated population of the city. These children walk miles to get to school and do so with smiles on their faces. Both the parents and the children now seem to understand how essential an education is in order to assure a secure future. Nowadays, the parents have started taking the initiative to bring their children to school with the hope of a better future.
At the Mission Education centre’s Pragati Wheels School, these children not only receive education, but also healthy food and essential healthcare. They are tutored regarding basic hygienic practices, good values and engage in different activities, to ensure their holistic development. Their parents take great care in not missing any of the parents’ teacher meetings and take complete interest in their children’s academic progress.
To know more about Smile Foundation’s education programme, please visit our website.