It is not easy for a girl to survive in a slum. Life for them is usually restricted within the confines of the four walls. Harbouring dreams and ambitions are seen as a waste of time. But this was not so for 20-year-old Madhu whose father dared to dream for his daughter.
Madhu was born to a poor family of daily wagers in a small village of Uttar Pradesh. When she was a toddler, Madhu started keeping unwell and had seizure attacks regularly. The family consulted every village doctor, but they could not treat Madhu. Finally, the family came to Delhi for the treatment at a renowned government hospital. The treatment took four years. During the span of these four years, they could not gather enough money to go back to their village and decided to settle in Delhi. They found a small space near the bank of the Yamuna river. They made a small shanty with whatever they get their hands on. Madhu’s father Ramjeet opted odd jobs and somehow managed to survive in Delhi. Years later the couple was blessed with another child.
Ramjeet got Madhu admitted to a government school as soon as she was better. He used to cycle 20 minutes one way to drop and pick Madhu from school every day irrespective of any weather condition. He used to work overtime so that he could buy a pair of new shoes and a bag for Madhu. He never listened to the talks of the community members on the wastage of resources in getting a girl educated. Madhu was the only girl from the community to complete the secondary school in the toughest condition.
Even today this place lacks basic amenities like water, electricity, toilet complexes, and a safe environment. Being on Yamuna bed they are always at high risk of flooding and water-borne diseases. The family does not even have a chair or bed at home. They sleep on an overused mat with their bedding, clothes, cooking pots and washing bowls all around the mat. No piped water and sanitation accessibility have made their life more terrible. Madhu has accepted all these challenges and struggles daily. She wants to take her parents out of this slum. Madhu says, “Leaving our shanties for days and living in a camp at highway without food during the monsoon has become part of our life”.
In her school, she heard about an organisation Asha who was working in the slum. She was filled with boundless joy when there was a knock on her door and the lady introduced herself as Anita from Asha. After talking at length to her parents about the importance of higher education, Anita brought her to the Asha centre. Madhu became a regular member and visited Asha every day after school to study. Madhu keeps her books and notebooks at Asha centre to save them from rats and termites. She was provided with the books and sample papers which she always dreamt of owning. Due to her hard work and dedication of Asha ambassadors and team, Madhu secured first division in her school-leaving exams. She was keen to pursue her graduation. But this was not seen as a financially feasible step by her father.
A sustained effort coupled with financial assistance for her higher education led to Madhu’s family being convinced about sending their daughter to college. Madhu secured a seat in Zakir Husain College of Delhi University. With this, she became the first student from her slum community to pursue higher education.
“I want to become a teacher so that I can help other children like I have been helped by Asha”, she says with confidence. Today Madhu is full of gratitude towards Asha for helping her overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds. “My family understands the importance of educating a girl child. I want to study and will do my level best in the B. A Programme course that I am pursuing” she says. Her smile entirely masks the difficulties she has faced to reach this far.
Always a fast learner, Madhu has shown tremendous improvement in her English-speaking abilities in the past years. With the help of the Asha team, third-year Asha student Madhu has started teaching in a government-aided Anganwadi (childcare centre in India) in the morning to support her family. Madhu attends college in the evening and has become an inspiration to the younger children in her neighbourhood whom she assists in studies in her spare time. Fondly referred to as ‘Didi’ (elder sister) by her students, Madhu is trying to make sure that these children dare to dream early on.
To donate for students from the slum such as Madhu, click here: https://bit.ly/2tFvdy3