Kashmira loves school and our after school classes
Each time I visit the Topsia Community Centre, I am bowled over by the children's singing.
Tiljala SHED’s 5 community centres are located in the heart of each of the 5 highly vulnerable communities where we work. The Topsia Centre can only be reached by crossing a footbridge over filthy water onto an island where 700 families live in illegal shelters surrounded by the foetid run-off from Kolkata’s sewerage system. Many won’t visit purely because of the smell. For the 150 children who attend our afterschool classes this is the only home they have ever known.
Step into the centre after 3 pm and you’ll be greeted with songs and poems. Although the children do not learn English at school, they have an extraordinary ability to pick up the language from the songs they learn after school. A working knowledge of written and spoken English provides a route out of the slum and into mainstream society. And they know it. If I ask the older ones what they really want, they all agree it is English lessons.
This week, all donations up to $50 (£38) are being matched 60% by GlobalGiving. This means that a £38 donation from a UK tax payer would be worth £70 to us. And that is enough to pay a month’s wages to a dedicated English teacher.
Please consider an additional donation this week or even set up a new regular donation, so that we can appoint English teachers in our 5 centres and give these children this opportunity to change their futures.
About the project
600 children of rag pickers, rickshaw drivers, maidservants, vegetable sellers are enrolled on Tiljala SHED's Education and Child Protection programme. They are required to attend their local government school but in the afternoon they attend remedial classes in T SHED's 5 centres, one in the heart of each community where we work. Here they play, sing, complete their homework, attend remedial sessions and child protection workshops. They love the classes and attendance is very high. Their parents are also closely involved - after all it is only with the parents' consent that the children remain in education and avoid dropping out. Tiljala SHED works very hard to persuade the parents that a proper education is worth the sacrifice of anything a boy might earn rag picking or working in a factory. And infinitely better than marrying off a daughter as soon as she reaches puberty.
Kashmira is nearly 7 years old and she lives in the Topsia squatter camp with her family. Bablu, her father, makes about £1.50 ($2) a day pulling a riskshaw. Her mother, Meena, supplements this meagre income by working as a maidservant for £17 ($22) a month. At the moment, Bablu is sick and hasn’t been able to work for a while. This is common: hard labour and poverty makes you vulnerable to illness, especially at this time of year when it is so hot. But to meet Kashmira you wouldn’t guess what hardship her family suffers. She is the life and soul of the Topsia class. At just 6 years old, she is a natural performer and leads the entire class of around 60 children in singing. She also loves school and is a top performer there too. But sadly the realities of life in a community like this mean that there is a high chance of Kashmira dropping out of education and being married off as young as 14 to repeat the cycle of poverty, exploitation and child bearing. All this energy and potential would be wasted. She needs your support to help her stay in education and make a different future fort herself. It costs just £11 ($15) per month to support a child like Kashmira
Kashmira in Feb 2018
After school session at Topsia