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Left out

The school is located just next to the Nagwa basti (slum) in Varanasi, India and serves students mainly from this community. While newspapers boast of a new shining India, those without English skills and who do not live in one of India’s five biggest cities are being left out of India’s growth.

In our region, Uttar Pradesh, poverty is increasing due to a five year regional drought, flooding in Bihar, and inflated food prices of more than 110%. Increased rural to urban migration has lead to family breakdown.

Unemployment is extremely high in Varanasi, which drives wages well below the cost of living. The families of our students need employment, security of shelter, water and sanitation services and education. Our students have illiterate parents. They do not have access to homework help or additional coaching classes, like most Indian children, but they are motivated and thriving!

Into the slums

In the beginning Mrs. Pandey approached the children who lived in her own neighborhood. The children were eager, but their parents were hesitant and most were not educated themselves. Education was not a priority. Even more importantly, the families needed the few rupees the children made in their jobs.




The parents

The parents typically drive cycle rickshaws, wash dishes, clean clothes, cook or clean for others, sell vegetables or sweep the street.

Most of these families came to Varanasi from West Bengal, Bihar, or from nearby villages, penniless and searching for work. Like most poor and migrant workers, they settled in the undeveloped areas of Varanasi.

Harshit Pratap Yadav (Class 10)
Harshit lives with his uncle because there is no school with classes 9 and 10 in his village. His mom and dad live and work in a village as farmers. His uncle sells milk door to door. After school he helps his uncle with this work. He is very determined to become an engineer.


Growing School Awareness amongst the poor

“Now we desperately need more classrooms. At the start I had to go every day into the slums, to ask the parents over and over again to send their children to school. Now things have drastically changed. Parents are crying in front of the school because there is no place to accommodate their children in our already overcrowded school.” (2007)

Ankita Srivastava (15, class 10)
“After school I give tuition to one nursery class girl. After that I help my mother with stitching clothes. That is the only source of income in the family. I want to be a High school teacher.”

Aditya Singh (15, class 10)
After school he works in a grocery store for 5 hours. His father has passed away leaving him as the caretaker of the family. He dreams of becoming a soldier.

Working from a very early age . . .

The children work from a very early age, picking up trash in front of stores, begging, working at road side stalls selling tea or tobacco, pushing food carts, and labor as domestic servants in wealthier homes.

Every member of these families is expected to contribute to the resources, even a few rupees a day. Some of the children’s parents abuse drugs and alcohol and force their children to beg or steal. In some cases, the children themselves are abused. As generally occurs all over India in poor families, approximately 40% drop out between class 5 and 8, due to pressure to support the family financially.

“We are a nation of one billion people with just 28 percent live in urban areas; an average person earns only Rs 1,498 a month (our per-capita GDP is one of the lowest in the world); only 54% of our people are literate; the average life expectance is only 61 years, the country has an HDI (Human Development Index) of 127 out of 175 nations in the world; 318 million people do not have access to safe drinking water; 250 million people do not have access to basic medical care; 630 million people do not have sanitation facilities; 51 percent of children are undernourished; and half our primary schools have only one teacher for every two classes!”

“…why should 300 million Indians live on hardly Rs 545 per month, barely sufficient to manage two meals a day, with little or no money left for schooling, clothes, shelter and medicine?”(PXIV)"

“Further, I have tremendous confidence in the power of youth, in the energy, confidence, determination and enthusiasm that every one of the young citizens possesses in abundance.” (P11)
(N R Narayana Murthy,”A Better India, A better world”. New Delhi, 2009)

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