DUBAI // Dozens of young children in an Indian slum are being given access to education to help them to reach for a better life.
Youngsters from Rishikesh, in Uttarakhand, are being taught how to read, write and do arithmetic as well as fundamental general knowledge and environmental studies free of charge.
That has been made possible by Monyati Initiatives, a UAE not-for-profit organisation that is working with Pankh, a local non-governmental organisation in India.
Monja Wolf, founder of Monyati Initiatives, said she was inspired to help the community after seeing conditions there during previous visits to the area for other projects.
“Over the past one and a half years I have spent a lot of time on the ground in the Himalayas and often drove by a small slum community in Rishikesh,” she said.
“This slum community consists of the poorest families in town.
“The thought ‘to do something’ crossed our mind many times. It was a matter of time until the right people came together to move things forward.”
The organisation decided to become involved as a way of providing more than the basic level of education the government-run school in the area offers.
“That required a lot of improvement in quality, primarily due to lack of qualified motivated teachers,” said Monja.
“Parents of our students secure a meagre income and cannot afford to send their children to better school premises.
“Thus we attempt to bridge that gap by offering free afternoon education courses. Our lessons strengthen and deepen what the students learn in their day-schools as well as provide foundation knowledge to those children who do not attend school at all due to work commitments.”
The Afternoon Education Centre opened in May and is held daily for three hours and caters to 40 children aged between five and 10.
With the parents of the pupils on very low incomes it has not been possible to pull them out of their current living conditions, she said.
“We strongly believe in providing our education efforts fully free of charge,” she said. “Therefore this centre’s future sustainability depends on donations in order to cover the costs of teachers, rental and basic school material of notebooks, pencils etc.”
The community was surveyed in the initial stages of the development to find out the needs of the people living in the area.
“We strongly believe that an in-depth communication with the community as equals is a core necessity for any successful social development project,” she said.
“As outsiders we have limited insight into their living conditions, needs, interests and perceptions.
“In this case the parents were keen to send their children to afternoon classes.”
The parents understand the value of education as well as the gaps in nearby schools.
“Overall we received a very positive response from the local community,” she said.
There was huge demand for the project and within two weeks of the inauguration the centre hit its maximum of 50 pupils.
“We are already looking for a new centre location that is more suitable to accommodate our students,” said Monja.
“However due to the slum setting, high population density in such areas as well as lack of proper infrastructure it is not so easy to find good rental rooms that can be converted into suitable classrooms, have electricity and a toilet facility as well as lie in vicinity so that young children can manage the walking distance.
“More importantly we need to appoint capable, experienced teachers that understand how to manage the mind of vulnerable children and are motivated to teach in such environments.
“To me it is important that not only the salary is an incentive for them, but that they also feel a sincere care and connection with the students.”
For more details visit www.monyati.org