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 Education  India Project #32034

Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata

by Tiljala Society for Humans and Educational Development
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Education for 600 Vulnerable Children in Kolkata
Receiving clothing donation
Receiving clothing donation

It has been a truly terrible year for everyone but for none more so than the children of Kolkata’s slums and shanties.

When lockdown began in India in March, schools were closed and so were the after-school classes that Tiljala SHED runs in our community centres. The children stayed at home in their makeshift shelters, forgotten by the outside world and our staff unable to reach them. The children’s parents -most of them daily labourers living hand-to-mouth as rickshaw drivers, factory workers, beggars, rag pickers, maidservants – found that they couldn’t earn enough to feed the children. So we started distributing food parcels – reaching over 35,000 people in the dark days of lockdown.

Cyclone Amphan swept through West Bengal in April and destroyed many homes.  So many children became homeless.  But help came from a GlobalGiving grant and from many local donors. Gradually life began to return to normal. Although schools are not yet open, Tiljala SHED has been able to restart the after-school classes. With masks, hand sanitiser and smaller groups we can keep the children educated and protected. For the older, secondary school children we have been able to provide smart phones so that they can access their education online. They have returned to their tuitions, have passed their board exams and are looking forward to going on to further training or higher education.

And then last week disaster struck again: a fire swept through the Topsia Canalside Squatter community leaving 110 families homeless again. As I write, local help is pouring in. Solar lamps, food, sheets, blankets, mosquito nets, tarpaulins have all been donated. Our staff are working flat out to assess the need, source donations and then to distribute them.

Meanwhile many of the children are sleeping every night under tarpaulins whilst they wait for their shelters (their homes) to be rebuilt. It is wonderful to see the community being so well looked after with in kind donations.  But it is more important than ever that these children can continue to attend their after-school classes (in our community centre which was, thankfully, spared in the fire). It is your donations that enable us to pay the teachers, to supply school books and stationery, nutritious snacks, to light and clean the community centre. It is your donations that keep the programme running and enable us to keep the children safe and in education. By keeping the children in education, you are protecting them from illiteracy, child labour and early marriage.

Thank you

Aftermath of the fire
Aftermath of the fire
110 homes destroyed
110 homes destroyed

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Looking forward to coming back to class
Looking forward to coming back to class

I last reported on this project on 24th March just as country after country around the world was going into lockdown, including India. 
Overnight, India's informal economy was forced to a halt. The daily labourers, rickshaw drivers, street vendors, domestic helpers, beggars and ragpickers found themselves unable to earn the daily wage they needed to feed themselves and their families. Starvation was only days away for many.
Schools closed and so did our after-school classes, the daily gatherings of up to 100 children in each of our community centres. 600 children from families which now faced an unknown future with no work and no income. The importance of education was brought into sharp focus by the lockdown. First, the children lost the midday meal and the day’s schooling provided by the state. Second, they lost the Tiljala SHED classes. They lost the joyful learning experience, the singing, the drama, the child protection education, the homework support, remedial education, the sport, the computer classes, the extra tuitions, the excursions, the library, the one-to-one support of our exceptional staff. Now they were at home and hungry.

Tiljala SHED’s main focus became overnight the relief of hunger. Swiftly Tiljala SHED's staff was reduced to the few who lived close enough to reach the target communities and an emergency office was set up in T SHED's Beauty Training Parlour.  We could no longer run our education programme but instead we needed to ensure all these children and their families were well and able to eat. 

Donations began to arrive from local philanthropic groups. Sacks of rice, lentils, flour, onions, biscuits, masks, gloves, hand sanitiser. We set up fundraising pages  at GiveIndia and here on GlobalGiving. As Support began to roll in, our amazing staff rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Since early April Tiljala SHED has distributed food aid to well over 30,000 people. The team is exhausted but they are doing an incredible job. Crowds of destitute people line the alley way beside the emergency office begging for help. Staff take names, distribute coupons, purchase vast quantities of supplies, package it for individual families and then distribute. All through the hottest time of year, through Ramadan and now through the monsoon.

And when this is all over, we need to regroup, and most importantly to get these children and their families back in their feet. The children will need to be coaxed back into school (where they are often discriminated against because of their poverty) and welcomed back into our daily classes (which they love). Your donations will be more important than ever as we rebuild the education programme and support the children to reach for better lives and good employment in mainstream society.

Tiljala SHED itself is also going to need institutional support: our immediate crisis is the vehicle. Our 12 year old van is finally worn out. Without it we cannot bring the aid to people who still desperately need it, so please consider today a donation towards replacing the van. We also still badly need donations for emergency food relief.

Thank you

Emergency Food Distribution
Emergency Food Distribution
Park Circus class - January 2020
Park Circus class - January 2020

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Suman
Suman

Suman is 16 years old. He lives in a makeshift shack in Kolkata’s Topsia Canalside squatter camp. He lives with his parents and two younger siblings. His father, formerly a rickshaw driver, is now a security guard. His mother is a housewife. Family income is Rs5,000 – 8,000 a month (£50 - £80).

Suman has just sat his Class X exams and wants to be an electronics and telecommunications engineer.  How can that possibly happen for him?

Suman belongs to Tiljala SHED’s education programme, attending after school classes for children aged 12 and upwards. It’s a very successful programme, encouraging youngsters to remain in education. There are 40 other young people like Suman in his Evening Class. They all desperately want to make something of their lives. The girls are fighting social and parental pressure to drop out of school and to marry. The boys face the pressure to drop out of school and take up labouring jobs. Many of the boys end up involved in crime, violence and substance abuse. Suman looks at the other boys. He says “They could do so well in studies and in life. But most of them ruin their lives”. It is a credit to Suman’s parents that all their three children remain in education and that they support Suman’s ambitions.

Please consider a generous donation, to help other ambitious youngsters like Suman realise their dreams. My colleague, who interviewed Suman for me yesterday reported “He is sober, nice, calm, peace-loving, gentle, patient and shy.”  Yes he is. I met him in January and was so impressed.

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Sultana
Sultana

You’ll read here about two 16 year olds, who are keen to continue in education despite the considerable practical, financial and social pressures to quit.

Sultana is studying in class VII. She is a bright girl and wants to stay in education. She is very vulnerable as both her parents have abandoned her and her brother. They live in a shelter by the Topsia sewage canal. Sultana’s brother supports her out of his wages in a leather factory but he is away from the home all day until very late, leaving Sultana alone and at risk.  However, Sultana attends Tiljala SHED’s evening classes in our community centre just along the path from where she lives.  Every evening from 5 pm until 9 pm she and other teenagers receive support for their studies

Rohit is also 16 and, like Sultana, he attends evening classes in our Topsia Centre. Rohit lives with his disabled father, his mother and five siblings. His father runs a small grocery stall and his mother is a maidservant. The family income is very low.  Rohit wants to complete his education so that he can get a good job and support his family. He loves the evening classes and is making good progress at school.

It is very common for girls like Sultana in these ultra-poor communities to end up married at 13 or 14, illiterate and with little hope for a future any different from their parents’. A boy like Rohit would generally drop out of school at about 10 years old and would be sent out to work to help support the family.  This project enables these young people to remain in education. We work hard to persuade the parents that they should allow their children to stay at school; we encourage and support the youngsters in their studies and we motivate them by providing a safe, stimulating, fun and studious environment. 

Just £11 a month enables us to keep a child like Rohit or Sultana in education.

 

A note: You will have heard from GlobalGiving that there is a problem disbursing your donations to the project. This is because all GlobalGiving's disbursements to Indian projects have been held up at government level. I am working on a solution which will unblock the funds and get your donations safely where they need to go. Meanwhile, the project is moving forward as we always aim to keep a modest cushion of funds for just this eventuality. Thank you for your patience.

Rohit
Rohit
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Papiya
Papiya

You’ll read below reports from Kolkata about two of our students who are on the brink of completing their school education and who want to continue their studies. This is a huge challenge for them and their very poor families. Financial pressure drives youngsters to give up on education and start work.  Both Papiya and Gopal have disabled fathers and mothers who have been forced to become maidservants in order to make ends meet.  This is a distressingly common scenario. Illiterate men take on labouring jobs which eventually leave them crippled, and their illiterate wives end up as domestic helpers for tiny and unreliable salaries. Papia and Gopal desperately need your help so that they can support their families and avoid the fate of their parents.

PAPIYA is 18 and lives resides in a single room with her family. Her father works as a labourer but as he is handicapped he is not paid proper wages. Her mother works as a maidservant, very exploitative low paid work. She has one brother who dropped out of studies after completing his year 10 examinations. He now works as a labourer for an entrepreneur who rents out sound boxes and mike.

Papiya will be sitting her Class XII examinations next year but desperately needs educational support to continue with her studies.  This is a vulnerable moment for her: many girls complete school and then end up married off without continuing to higher education. With a degree she will truly be able to lift herself and her family out of poverty.

 

GOPAL is also 18. His father is disabled and cannot work properly. His mother works as a maid servant. He has two brothers and one sister.

Gopal is studying in class XII and will be appearing for examinations. His brother and sisters are all studying this puts a lot of financial pressure on the family finances . Gopal works in a catering company to augment family income. The money he earns is spent on his education .If he receives any support this will go a long way towards mitigating financial pressure .He is very keen to continue with his studies  and is also very ambitious.

The families in these two case studies are truly in need, as you’ll read.  But despite this they are determined that the children will stay in education.  This project provides the necessary support to ensure children from Kindergarten upwards are encouraged to stay in education. Every day we run after school classes in our Community Centres where the children come for remedial help with schoolwork. They have computer classes, singing lessons, homework support, sport, drama, nutritious snacks, occasional excursions and health care.  The parents are engaged too: they are almost all illiterate themselves but they understand the importance of education and are encouraged to see the big picture and not to marry their daughters off early or withdraw their sons from school to send them to work.  

Just £11 a month keeps a child like Papiya or Gopal in education.

Gopal
Gopal
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Organization Information

Tiljala Society for Humans and Educational Development

Location: Kolkata - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @TiljalaSHED
Project Leader:
Jane Manson
Kolkata, India
$19,846 raised of $108,000 goal
 
276 donations
$88,154 to go
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