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Door Step School makes the dreams of education of underprivileged children come true
During her MSW (master’s in social work) internship with a municipal school in Colaba (Mumbai), Bina Lashkari was required to do a follow-up on drop-outs. On her field visits then, she came to know that children were not coming to school because they were working at the docks nearby, loading and unloading cargo and assisting the fishermen. Many such children were well past their school-going age but had no avenues to study because their job timings were inflexible.
“At that juncture, I started teaching a small group of children in the Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar slum,” Ms Lashkari recalls. “Interaction with these children inspired me to continue teaching. After completing my post-graduation, with the guidance of my teacher Rajani Paranjpe, I continued teaching the kids. This is how the idea of setting up a school emerged. This school was to deliver learning at the doorstep of every child,” she explains.
So Door Step School was set up in 1988 in Mumbai with the aim to facilitate the education of children from impoverished backgrounds. The NGO helps children of pavement- and slum-dwellers, construction workers and daily wage-earners. Since inception, it has reached out to more than 50,000 children in 125 different locations.
A year after it was started in Mumbai, Door Step School extended its reach to Pune. Initially, Ms Lashkari had to fund the programme herself. Then, Shaila Welfare Trust and CRY came forward to support the initiative. “The earlier days were hard,” she says, “there was no support from local authorities; no space for classrooms; no funds for paying the programme staff; shortage of staff willing to work in slums; and absence of students due to time constraints and migration.”
However, after 23 years, Door Step School now enrols 1,000 children annually in municipal schools. Regular surveys are conducted at slums and other pockets of the city where out-of-school children are likely to be found. The staff follows up on the visits, meeting the children and their parents to convince them of the benefits of education. The initial aim is to enrol children and make them attend classes regularly. Parent-teacher meetings are conducted periodically and, through inter-community networks, more children are included in the programme. “The children are enrolled in Door Step School classrooms (i.e., their non-formal classrooms) any time of the year,” said Ms Lashkari.
Apart from support classes and out-of-school guidance, the NGO also runs care centres for younger siblings of the students, arranges for school transport, runs mobile classrooms and provides library facilities. “Many students from our school have gone on to finish high school and obtain college degrees. They have returned to take leadership at Door Step School and in their communities,” said Ms Lashkari.
Take Hanumanta Deora, for example. At the age of nine, while working at the docks, he started his studies with Door Step School. He graduated with a diploma from the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition in Mumbai, and is now working in New York at the Carnival Cruise. Rehmuddin Shaikh was enrolled in the balwadi class at the age of three and also developed his passion for rugby. Today, he balances his time as an administrative assistant and is coaching the Mumbai Magicians rugby team. He is still associated with Door Step School. He recently won a gold medal in the National Games for a team rugby event.
Door Step School plans to scale up its activities this year to include more children and extend its outreach. Professionals like doctors, counsellors, lawyers and social entrepreneurs can voluntarily offer their service to the organisation. Door Step School also welcomes volunteers who can help design teaching aids, provide teacher training, organise activities and act as coordinators or software developers for various projects. Donations to Door Step School are exempt under Section 80(G) of the Income-Tax Act.
Door Step School
2nd floor, Jagannath Shankarsheth Municipal School Building,
Grant Road, Nana Chowk,
Mumbai – 400 007
Tel: 98210 58655