Tertiary Education For Students in Asha Delhi Slums
Young people around the world are increasingly seeking the tertiary education needed for industries that are driving the global economy.
Tertiary education provides skills for immediate professional work as well as advanced study, promoting social mobility and economic development. (The World Bank, 2021)
Access, equity, and diversity are challenges in both developing and developed countries. Historically, higher education has been a privilege largely enjoyed by students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds; the current growth in enrollment raises questions about who has access, and who benefits. While India’s tertiary education system is one of the largest in the world with over ten million students, only 10% of young people have access to higher education, predominantly those who are well-off. (The World Bank, 2015)
Education Challenges in India Slums
Familial poverty is a major cause of students’ lack of participation in education. Slum children are often needed to work to support families as local store salespeople, sweepers, factory workers, laborers, or rickshaw pullers and for them, education is not a priority.
Those who do want to study have limited space in their houses and regular time for mastering hard to grasp subjects such as mathematics and upper level English.
Asha’s Program for Tertiary Education in Delhi Slums
This program, begun in 2008, is built on the foundation of Primary and Secondary Education by which Asha assures that children across its slum communities complete their education, and are ready for higher education. The Asha team and student ambassadors in each of Asha’s project locations conduct extensive home visits and select students who have performed well in secondary school exams, have aptitude and interest, but lack resources for higher studies. Asha activities:
Reduce Anti-Education Pressure
Due to poverty and deprivation, families are often reluctant to allow their children to pursue higher education. The Asha team and student ambassadors meet regularly with students and their families, and through community meetings help them understand the value of education for transforming individuals and communities. Appreciating the value of educating female students is made more difficult by years of a patriarchal male-dominated society. Asha’s Women Empowerment Program, which has transformed the lives of mothers, has also contributed to an increasing number of females choosing higher education – now more than 60% of university admissions.
Provide Intensive Academic Training
After preparation for higher education, studying for the school-leaving class XII exam starts. As the university admission process is highly competitive, it is critical that students achieve high marks in school-leaving exams. Students receive intensive academic support including textbooks, study materials, sample question papers, and other academic aids to help them prepare for the final class XII Board exams. Senior students provide weekly coaching and mock tests to help younger students acclimatize to real-time exams. Asha’s Team and ambassadors assure that assignments are completed, and monitor performance.
Provide English Classes and Soft Skills
Students from the slum communities lack fluency in English, which is critical for higher education. Asha assures that students improve their English speaking and writing skills by providing them regular, intensive training, and . regular online English classes conducted by international volunteers. Students also learn behavioral skills helpful in their all-around development.
Provide Computer and IT Skills
Currently six Asha centers are equipped with advanced computers, high-speed internet connectivity, and instruction to help students learn computer skills. These IT facilities help them attend online classes, complete assignments, and appear for their semester exams. Studying at the centers, where they are supported by technology and a conducive environment is preferable to doing so in their one-room shanties.
Guide Students in the College Admission Process
Asha provides individual student support and counseling during the final high school years to guide students through the college admission process. The Asha team and the student ambassadors help them select colleges and courses based on their test results.
Support Students with Documentation
Students may lack admission documents for college admission. The Asha team helps students to obtain necessary government certificates.
Provide Financial Support
Asha helps pay fees, transportation, and other college expenses when parents are unable to do so.
Provide Vocational and Skill Development
Asha provides vocational, skill-development, and job-oriented courses for students without access to college education, to enable them to be job-ready. Since the program’s start, Asha has trained more than 600 students in nursing, lab technician, allied healthcare, and information technology.
Outcomes Since 2008
Asha has supported more than 3,600 students across its slum communities to receive a university education and more than 400 students to receive vocational and skill development courses. These students have moved out of the intergenerational cycle of poverty to give their families a life of dignity, respect, and financial security through education.
Farman lives in the Chanderpuri slum with his parents. His family had migrated to Delhi more than twenty years back from the neighbouring state of UP in search of a better life. They live in a one-room shanty near the railway track of Chanderpuri. When it rains, water enters their house and washes away all their belongings. Farman had to face life’s challenges since his childhood and saw acute poverty and deprivation from close quarters. The severe space crunch in the house, the sound of constant rattling of trains, and the lack of enabling environment resulted in huge difficulties for Farman to concentrate on his studies. His father is a day laborer earning about 80 dollars a month. This amount was too meager to maintain the family. Already struggling for survival, the crisis of the pandemic put the family further into an existential crisis as Farman’s father lost his income and there were no savings to fall back on.
However, Asha provided the family with emergency food parcels throughout the pandemic. This enabled the family to survive the crisis.
As both the parents and other family members are not educated, the biggest challenge for Asha was to help them understand the value of education for Farman who has been associated with Asha since his childhood as a member of Bal Mandal (Children’s Group). The Asha team and student ambassadors played a major role in motivating Farman in his quest for higher education and gave him the necessary support. Farman’s parents were also counselled both at the Asha center in Chanderpuri as well as through regular home visits. Finally, the team was delighted when they allowed Farman to opt for higher education.
Farman studied at the Asha center using the resources like advanced IT facilities, books, and dedicated study spaces as there were no facilities at his home for studies. He would come to the center early in the morning and after his studies, attended his school classes online. After spending the whole day at the center, he returned home in the evening. The Asha team provided him with academic support through study material, and the Senior Asha Ambassadors helped him with his subjects and helped clear his concepts.
With Farman’s determination and focus, and with Asha’s support, he scored a brilliant 91.7% in his School Leaving exams!
Asha helped him get a seat in B.A Hons. (History and English) at prestigious Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar College of Delhi University. Farman is grateful for Asha’s financial and emotional support and is ready to begin the next chapter of his life, exploring the world and all it has to offer him. And at the same time absorbing the Asha values to become a man of compassion and integrity. He dreams of entering the prestigious Indian Administrative Service.
“I want to change the condition of my community and bring an end to their sufferings and struggles”, says Farman. He has been a brave and committed Asha Corona warrior all through the pandemic. He is a committed Asha Ambassador who visits the centre every day and teaches other students.