Kalpana is 11 yrs old and has 4 siblings; she lives in a slum in India. She and her family live in extreme poverty and sleep on an earthen floor. She shares a room with five other members of the family, leaving her with no privacy and space for either play or independent study. Her house is infested with mosquitoes during summer and monsoon, making it a breeding ground for diseases.
Kalpana’s father, who is the sole earning member, works as a labourer in the community market. His pay is 5-7 USD per day and it is used to run the extended household of 13 family members. Kalpana’s mother is a homemaker and looks after the family. After school, Kalpana supports her mother in household chores and also looks after her younger siblings.
Kalpana will soon hit puberty and start menstruating. Not having a toilet in her school will make it increasingly difficult for her to attend school on a regular basis. Currently, she rushes home every time there is a need to use the toilet. This causes an obvious disruption in her studies.
Every day she also finds herself impatiently waiting for the teacher to show up in her classroom. The school has only one teacher -- who doubles as the principal -- and children have to wait for their turn while she is busy with another class.
Kalpana is not only a bright student but also a fortunate one since her parents are supportive of her education. Her current challenges make the school a difficult place to learn and fulfil her dream of becoming a teacher. There are many other children like Kalpana who are affected by similar issues.
These are the children attending Nagla Rate school in Mainpuri, a small rural town near Agra. As a volunteer, I visited the school with a group of kind hearted souls who wanted to make a difference in the lives of these children. Nagla Rate is a primary government school which serves a local community of 70 children living in the slum.
Photo: Nagla Rate school children with the principal
The government has a vision for these schools when it comes to quality infrastructure and education, but unfortunately very few of these goals get fulfilled. For example, mid-day meals and free school uniforms are provided, but there is a strong need for private support as these schools are still not able to offer quality education and give these children a chance towards a better future.
There is a government school every 1 km in India. Access to a school isn’t the real problem. There is a complex ecosystem of problems that prevents the community children from getting good education in these schools.
The first problem is with the school itself, a basic infrastructure that can make the school a comfortable abode for these little children is non-existent. The classroom and playground is filled with water during the rainy season, making it hard for the kids to even enter the school. The roofs are leaking, windows are broken, and cold winters make it brutal for the kids to sit on the dilapidated cement floor because of the chill. They don't have desks either.
Sanitation is another big issue; the school doesn't have a toilet. These problems make coming to school hard not only for the children but also for the teacher. The school gets funds from the government but that’s not enough to support all its needs.
The second problem is around the quality of education. Government schools in India are seeing a big shortage of teachers. This school we are talking about has an average attendance of 60 kids -- with a principal looking after the school administration and also responsible for teaching the children.
There is a critical need to bring in teaching volunteers and train them so that they are able to support the principal and teach kids in a fun and impactful way.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
I am supporting the school principal in resolving some of these current challenges through sustained short and long term assistance. The immediate need for us is to collect funds and build the basic infrastructure in the next six months. This will make it warm and comfortable for the kids by the time winter arrives.
Once we have built the infrastructure -- and this is where you might be able to help -- the mid-long term focus can move towards bringing paid volunteers to the school. They will not only teach the students but also engage with the parents and local community to reverse low attendance.
Make a donation now to help us build the school and give these children a chance towards a better life. All funds raised from the project will go directly towards the benefit of the Nagla Rate School in Mainpuri. I will be personally overseeing the project.
Thank you in advance! I look forward to sharing more as the project gains momentum!
Sneh Bagaria has 12 years of experience in the digital advertising industry. Currently, she lives and works in Singapore. Also an art enthusiast and practitioner of Vipassana meditation, she is pursuing her passion for helping underprivileged children through this project.