Education for underprivileged children

Kolkata, India

More than one in six children in India work instead of going to school.
In deprived neighbourhoods of Kolkata many children will never go to school, or they will drop out before they finish, restricting their access to vocational training.

The Indian government puts the number of working children at 11.2 million but the NGO estimate is closer to 100 million – the highest in the world, or more than one in six. Poverty forces parents to send their children to work. Girls are even less likely to go to school than boys. In the slums of Kolkata, the standard of living is subsistence, or survival. The rate of unemployment is extremely high, sanitation is appalling and the risk of eviction is constant. Children living in these slums need help to go to school.

Terre des Hommes Suisse

Our innovative project is aimed at getting an education for two categories of children – those who have just recently dropped out of school and those who are at particular risk of dropping out. Access to basic education is vital in areas with such high illiteracy rates. These children are the first generation with access to education. We must support them!

Following discussions with the communities, the children and their parents, Terre des Hommes Suisse’s local partner, SPAN, offers two types of support. First, Open Schools offer a form of distance learning and exams to children who have already dropped out of school, helping them to catch up on what they have missed. Open School classes are approved by the Indian Ministry of Education. Additional tutoring is also given in the children’s neighbourhoods at the end of the day. This is done in groups of 12 to 15 children across five centres. The second type of support is alternative vocational training, which provides introductory courses in areas such as electricity, telephone maintenance and clothes making. These classes are offered at the weekend, with the aim of motivating young people by showing them careers that need specialist training, hence the need to finish school. Activities are organised by two educational advisors who monitor each individual until they get a place on a vocational course at a polytechnic college. SPAN also offer programmes for beauticians and nurse’s aides, aimed at encouraging education specifically among girls.

The organisation has created a vocational training centre designed to guide young people onto the job market and improve their prospects. The centre also organises courses in IT and English, both of which are very popular. These courses last six months to three years.

When they finish their training, a SPAN coordinator uses their network of small business owners to help the young people look for jobs. A micro-credit fund is also available to help those who want to set up their own businesses, on their own or as a group.

All courses are free, giving young people access to professional training and real employment prospects.