Delhi Slum Problems and Challenges
India now has 1.4 million schools and 7.7 million teachers so that 98% of homes have a primary school within one kilometer, and 92% have an upper primary school within a three-kilometer walking distance.
Accessibility to schools in the slums is lower, however. According to one study, only 59% of slums were within a half kilometer of the government’s primary schools.
Keeping children in school through graduation is also a problem. Nationally, 29% of children drop out before completing five years of primary school, and 43% before finishing upper primary school. The high school graduation rate is only 42%. Primary schools lack 689,000 teachers, 47% of schools lack functional girls’ toilets and 26% lack% lack access to drinking water. Thus, girls need to leave school and go home to use the toilet. This lack of infrastructure and an enabling environment decreases students’ motivation to stay in school.
Few schools have enough teachers to meet the requirement of one teacher per class or section. As a result, teachers have difficulty managing and effectively teaching their classes (Rana & Banerjee, 2006). Their accountability is also a problem. Teachers’ attendance is just 85% in primary and middle schools. And according to recent data, 53% of all children in urban poor areas of India cannot read and understand a short story by the time they finish primary school.
This high rate of “learning poverty”, the low share of children who by age 10 are unable to read a short, age-appropriate story with comprehension – is an early warning that the “every child reading” goal will not be attained by 2030 (World Bank, 2019.).
Asha’s education interventions for Delhi’s child slum dwellers
Asha aims to assure that children are enrolled in the formal education system, and complete without disruption their primary and secondary education. Children in Asha slums grow up aware of their right to education. The Asha resource centers provide the necessary resources for children to play, learn, grow in confidence and develop skills that narrow the gulf between them and the economically better-off youngsters.
- Assures minimum drop-outs at all levels of schooling Asha counsels’ parents and the students on the importance of education and uses home visits to assure that every child in its 91 slums goes to school and is motivated to enroll in higher education. The result is 100% primary school enrollment, with less than a 1% dropout in primary and around 5% in secondary schools.
- Provides Children’s Groups (Bal Mandal) Asha children, ages 6-14, meet after school where they play, learn through fun-filled activities, and practice Asha values including compassion, dignity, non-violence, and gratitude – reinforcing positive qualities that counter the slum environment’s negative influences. Gender equity assures that girls are not left behind in school enrollment. Asha’s comprehensive academic support includes textbooks, sample papers, homework time, and mock tests to enable students to prepare for the school-leaving exams, and achieve results qualifying them for admission to the competitive Delhi University.
- Assists students in obtaining documentation Slum children often lack birth certificates and National Identity Cards necessary for school admission. The Asha team helps children obtain these documents and accompanies them through the process.
- Provides academic support for homework and assignments. The Asha resource centers provide children with the infrastructure, teaching aids, and environment which their homes lack. Instruction in English language proficiency and computer skills with high-speed internet facilities are now available now in 6 Asha centers.
Alia’s Journey to School
Nine-year-old Alia stays with her parents and one sibling at Chanderpuri slum. They had migrated to Delhi from the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh around two years back.
Alia’s father Feroz is a small time vegetable vendor earning not enough per month to take care of his family and her mother Rabia works as a part time tailor to support the family. The combined family income is around 300$ per month.
Alia was studying in class 3 in her native village when her family shifted to Delhi. As it was the middle of the year, the school authorities advised Alia’s parents to wait for the next academic session for her admission.
During the start of the 2020, Covid-19 struck India and immediate lock-down was imposed. Alia’s family lost their source of income and there were no savings to fall back. The crisis was acute, and the family was on the brink of starvation.
The Asha team immediately rushed emergency food aid to help Alia’s family under their Covid-19 relief programme and helped the family survive. The Asha team also accompanied Alia to a nearby government school and talked to the principal for her admission. The principal knew about Asha’s long-term presence and credibility in the community. Hence, she agreed to admit Alia in class IV but needed certain specific documentations like Transfer Certificate from the village school as well as identity documents.
During these challenging times, Alia’s parents found it extremely difficult to organize these documents as there was limited transport available because of lock down and the village school was closed. However, Asha team regularly pursued the case and with persistent efforts, arranged to get the transfer certificate from the village school for Alia. Asha also got Alia’s Aadhar Card- National Identity document made based on her birth certificate.
Further, the Asha team and senior students taught Alia subjects like maths, and language to cope up with the academic standard of Delhi’s school, which is much higher than her village school.