The Masti Ki Paathashaala (MKP) or Fun School project being run by Child Survival India (the NGO I’m shadowing here in Delhi).
This school takes kids that have either fallen out or not been to school and provides them with remedial education to bring up their level to then reintegrate them into a government school. The Indian government has a law which makes education a right — it is free with all fees, uniforms, books, and other material paid for by the government.
The government makes education free because in the context of many poorer people, education is not a priority – working is. Here’s a picture of the slum where the MKP is located.
The MKP program is completely funded by CSI who pay the rent for the building and pay the teachers (normally training teachers themselves) to bring up the level of these kids. The problems that the MKP program are addressing lie with the parents and the system.
Firstly, with many of the parents migrating to Delhi either looking for work or to join other family members, they do not have official residential status, and the school can turn the kids away. CSI provides advice on what paperwork to prepare and then accompanies the parents and kids to the schools to make sure this doesn’t happen.
The second problem is a little more thorny. Some parents don’t want their kids to work and want them to work at home (or even worse, sell them to work for someone else as a home assistant, i.e. child labour). These kids don’t know better, nor do the parents as it is socially acceptable. However they do know it is illegal under Indian law to do this. CSI identifies these kids and makes the parents aware of the benefits of education and the cost (i.e. almost nothing). Asking Renu, the teacher what she does to convince parents, she simply replied, “I ask the parents if they want their kids to have the same life that they had… and that education is the way out.”
I saw one success today: the girl in the blue dress asked the teacher to be excused because she had to go home to help (i.e. probably to work). After missing out on school for a couple of years, MKP has brought her level up to her age group, and she’s been enrolled into a government school for the next term.