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Education for 600 Vulnerable Children from Kolkata's Slums and Squatter Camps

Campaign by Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development

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A boy born into a rag picker family in one of Kolkata’s urban canal-side or railway squatter camps would expect to drop out of school by class 5, take up rag picking or other exploitative work and possibly drift into crime, drugs and alcohol abuse by the time he is adult. A girl child would stay in education perhaps a year or two more, but would end up caring for younger siblings, married off as a teenager and repeating her mother’s life of poverty, drudgery, child-bearing and domestic abuse or abandonment. In both cases illiteracy keeps the child poor and vulnerable.

•            1 in 4 children of school age is out of school – 99 million in total (Census 2011)

•            There are 10.13 million child labourers between 5-14 years (Census 2011)

•            42% of married women in India were married as children (DISE)

•            1 in every 3 child brides in the world is a girl in India (UNICEF)

•            India has over 45 lakh girls under 15 who are married with children. (Census 2011)

Across India, school drop-out rates are highest at grade 5, leaving children practically illiterate. Tiljala SHED has found this to be very much the case in our target communities.

It is only by staying in education that the children of rag pickers and the ultra-poor can hope to escape a life of destitution beside the railway tracks or the sewage canal. This project supplements their government schooling and motivates the children to remain in education. Tiljala SHED runs after-school classes every day for 600 children from Kg to class XII in 5 community centres in the heart of each of our 5 target areas in Central Kolkata. Here the children receive remedial academic support, English and computer lessons. Sports sessions, songs, drama and puppetry are used to enhance the learning experience and to deliver messages on health, hygiene, good behaviour and child safety. School bags, uniforms and stationery are supplied. In addition, parents’ meetings are held as well as counselling sessions where necessary. The children love the classes and there is a waiting list for places. Since starting classes for class VI and above many children who would otherwise have dropped out or married have stayed in education and are ambitious to go to college. This is unheard of in these communities and we want to do everything we can to support their ambitions.

None of the five poorest areas where we work boasts a single college graduate. But since Tiljala SHED extended after school classes from Class VI upwards, there are young people preparing for board exams and hoping to gain a college place. Even basic literacy and numeracy will give a child a far better chance of earning a good living and being able to support a family. In communities where the children are first generation learners, parental support for education needs to be nurtured, especially when traditions like early marriage clash with a young girl's wish for an education.

Our target outcomes are ambitious. By 2025

  • 80% of target beneficiaries will complete class 8 (as per RTE 2012) – 480 children
  • 30% of target beneficiaries will pass class X board exams – 180 children
  • 10% will pass class 12 – 60 children
  • 8% will go on to higher education - 48 children

Impact we are already seeing are: huge demand for classes, especially among class 6 and above; fewer child marriages; a more cohesive society where young people are actively campaigning against child marriage; parents encouraging both boy and girl children to remain in education; parents requesting adult education (literacy skills).


Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development

Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development

Beneficiary Charity

Jane Manson

Jane Manson


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