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Parivartan Shikshan Sanstha helps poor children by informal training and creates awareness about their rights
The Bharni Naka community, like countless slums in India, represents the flipside of ‘Incredible India’. Home to thousands of migrant labourers, the area has seen little economic or social progress. It was here that advocate Shakil Ahmed founded Parivartan Shikshan Sanstha in 1997, to educate children from his locality and create awareness about the importance of formal learning.
“I was born and brought up here,” says Mr Ahmed. “While I could complete my education and pursue a career, most children living here were not lucky enough to have any form of schooling. I decided to change the situation.” After he graduated, Mr Ahmed started giving free tuitions to a few children. As the number of students increased, he rented a room along with some friends. Gradually, more teachers were hired and resources garnered. Parivartan was formed in 1997 and registered as a trust in 2001.
The initial days were hard; there were no funds. The slum-dwellers themselves could not contribute; corporates and other organisations were not interested in funding Parivartan. But Mr Ahmed and his friends persisted in their efforts. In 2002, Mr Ahmed received the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship for his efforts in empowering the local people and educating them about their rights. “With recognition, things brightened up, and some other trusts and donors came forward to help us,” he says.
Today, Parivartan has three centres—a playschool, a balwadi centre and a computer centre where adolescents can get basic training for minimal fees. Parivartan now helps some 150 children between the ages of 6 and 14 with informal training and pre-school learning in Hindi, the mother tongue of most inhabitants. “Children enrolled in other schools also come here; we assist them in framing questions, grasping concepts and expressing themselves so that they can perform better,” says Mr Ahmed.
Apart from teaching, volunteers also help raise awareness about the need for education. “Not only poverty, but gender, caste and religious factors also prevent many parents from sending their children to school. We have to convince them about the merits of formal schooling,” says Mr Ahmed.
As an advocate, Mr Ahmed has fought many battles. He believes that the Right to Education must be enforced. Parivartan’s big victory came in 2006, when it won a seven-year-old court battle for establishing a school in the locality. The Bombay High Court directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to set up a school in Sangam Nagar in Wadala (central Mumbai)—the first school that the BMC built after 1978. Last year, he forced the BMC to accept 110 students from the locality, who were denied admission because they were dubbed ‘unfit’ for going to public schools. Mr Ahmed is also fighting for security of children in public schools and making schools accountable for preventing accidents and violence—a petition that’s going on for two years.
Parivartan’s students have done it proud. For two consecutive years, two girls from that locality were toppers in their night-schools in the Class X exams. There are others, like the son of a migrant helper at a carpenter shop. “His father had wanted his son to be educated and worked very hard to achieve that dream. Today, his son has graduated as a scientist and will join the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre this month,” Mr Ahmed said.
Parivartan is planning to expand its activities and strengthen its present capacity. Mr Ahmed believes that while things are changing fast and society is realising the need for education, several children, generally below 6 years of age, need to be reached. One can volunteer as a teacher, help children with learning, develop their creativity and even act as a sports coach. You can also help Parivartan financially. All donations are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80(G) of the Income-Tax Act.
PARIVARTAN SHIKSHAN SANSTHA
Room No-14, Babasaheb Ambedkar Telugu Sangh Bldg, Salt Pan Rd, Sangam Nagar, Wadala (East),
Mumbai 400 037
Tel: 022 2294 7309