Located on the outskirts of Delhi, Bhowapur’s rag-picking slum is inhabited by an estimated 5,000 people, with families living in extreme poverty. The area lacks basic amenities such as housing, electricity, water, sanitation and healthcare, and children have no access to education.
With funding from the Monsoon Accessorize Trust, we have been able to support the Phia Foundation to help set up ‘bridge schools’ – small-scale education initiatives for children aged three to 14 years, with the purpose of getting them up to speed so that they can enrol in local state-run schools. The Jugnu education centre in Bhowapur is run by trained community leaders, these centres provide pupils with basic education, as well as clean water and fresh, nutritional food, ensuring the children are fed and therefore more able to concentrate in their lessons. Children are also encouraged to explore their creativity with song, dance and art classes, and are often taken out for educational and recreational trips. 182 are currently registered with the bridge school and are continuing their education.
15-year-old Gudiya is the most educated student in Phia’s three-year-old learning centre. She also juggles the domestic duties that come from being the oldest unmarried girl in a family of 10. Every morning, Gudiya wakes up at 5 a.m. to take care of the family’s cooking and cleaning needs. She takes charge of the household as her mother collects garbage all day to ensure that she receives an education. “I feel responsibility towards my mother,” says Gudyia, “I wake up early and cook, so that she can take rest and wake up a little later.” After morning classes at the Government school in Delhi, about a 40 minute walk, she has remedial classes that follow at the Jugnu education centre. She spends her time learning maths, a subject that she struggles with. After her remedial lessons, Gudiya helps her mother segregate the garbage collected during the day. The selling of the collected scraps are done by her father - who can sell a kilo of discarded plastic for around Rs. 10.
Once Gudiya gets home by 8 p.m., she helps her younger sister with washing clothes and cooking dinner. At 11, she goes to bed, ready to repeat the cycle the next day. Ask Gudiya if she’s happy with her life and she hesitates, before saying “I want to make some changes in my life. I don't want to collect garbage for money. My parents want me to get married when I finish class XII - girls my age are already getting married in the community - but I want to become a teacher. That way, I can tell children about my journey, and then, they will also come forward and pursue education.”
Sonam is the youngest of six children and has grown up amongst the ragpicker community in Bhowapur. She is regularly attending remedial classes at the Jugnu Education Centre. Following the progress she made there, she was registered in a nearby government school, meaning for the first time she was part of the formal school system. She has excelled in her school exams and has recently been awarded with a Certificate of Merit for her academic achievements - Sonam scored 91% in her annual exams. She shared her joy with our team and showcased her certificate and gift given by her school.
Preeti (pictured above in the green dress at the Jugnu Education Centre) and her sister Megha had been out of school for a number of years. Their mother was a domestic worker and father was a rickshaw puller. Their routine job was to support at home and look after their younger sibling. Megha and Preeti both used to support her mother as a fill-in for the domestic work when required.
During community meetings in Bhowapur hosted by the Phia Foundation, the project team got connected with Preeti's family. After multiple visits to their home, her parents, who previously had little interest in having their children educated, finally agreed for Preeti and Megha to start attending the centre.
First Megha and Preeti received classes in order to bring them up to the educational level expected for their age. Importantly, they were helped to get their their aadhar card (official ID proof), required in order to enrol in government run schools. Then, their parents were convinced to allow them to enrol in the local school, where they are currently both studying and according to their teachers, are excelling.