A wonderful effort to ensure that the children of marginalised, migrant workers get the education they deserve
As the infrastructure of a city grows, it attracts a number of labourers who come in search of jobs and a better life. Unfortunately, their families have a rough time; sometimes, they are uprooted every few months from one place of work to another. Their children are almost invisible. They are not seen loitering on the roadside, nor do they beg, or cause any trouble. Their parents are busy making both ends meet, working as daily wage labourers in the construction industry. Who will educate these migrant children and allow them to benefit from the prosperity of the advanced city? Rajnitai Paranjpe found one answer.
A professional social worker and a teacher, Ms Paranjpe realised that education was the single most important factor that could bring about a change in the lives of marginalised people. To make this happen, she co-founded The Society for Door Step Schools (DSS) in 1988 in Mumbai along with her former student, Bina Lashkari. What started as a non-formal education class for 50 out-of-school children, rapidly expanded in the community with balwadis (pre-school), study classes and libraries providing additional support. The Pune branch was set up in 1993 and, today, it reaches out to children, not only from the slums but also construction sites and brick kilns.
DSS has designed and implemented various programmes, depending on the needs of children on the ground. Each programme has evolved to reach the desired goals; rethinking and adapting is a part of the strategy. The many different programmes under DSS include: Educational Activity Centre, Community Learning Centres, School on Wheels, Grow with Books, Parents’ Participation in Children’s Education, and Parivartan Training Centre.
“The Educational Activity Centre (EAC) is the main point of contact at 131 construction sites covering 8,000 children of migrant labourers. Builders are asked to sponsor the site class so that they are aware of the obstacles in children’s education. Some builders are generous; some are not! An extreme case forces us to reluctantly close down a site class,” says Rajnitai. The EAC is usually a tin-shed in the labour camp itself; the idea is to prompt the children and parents to get used to the idea of ‘going to school’ before making a transition to mainstream schools. In-house trained teachers conduct all activities at EAC.
Bridging the disparity between children of higher-income families and poor families is a daily routine at DSS. According to Tim Ackers, a volunteer at DSS from Brisbane, “I found DSS to be a very worthy humanitarian cause. The dedication of the staff was an inspiration, as I witnessed their commitment to provide more opportunities to children who would otherwise have very little options in a city booming with economic prosperity for the rich and financial hardship for the poor.”
Interestingly, all children are given a notebook, which is simply called ‘My Book’, in which they keep their personal records as well as a record of their school journey. “This booklet has proved very useful in helping them get admission to formal schools when they move elsewhere. It also helps them to keep in touch with us,” she adds.
Ms Paranjpe is forthright about the need for donations to continue the good work that DSS is doing. She says, “We are dependent on donations from our major project partners, funding organisations, corporate sectors, individuals and volunteers. Bringing awareness through change of attitude is the most difficult of challenges. But we have managed to open doors of closed minds. However, to bring momentum to the good work we do, we need help and cooperation from all the stake holders.”
Donations to DSS are exempt under Section 80-G of the Income Tax Act.
The Society for Door Step Schools – Pune
110, ‘Parimal’ Anand Park,
Aundh, Pune 411007,
Mobile: +91 93710 07844