Saakshar means ‘Literate’!
For children in India’s slums, the absence of education is a life sentence of poverty. In the daily struggle to survive, children’s education is often impossible as illiterate parents working long hours are unable to deal with school applications, and slum children who do start school face many challenges and often drop out. In Delhi, the Saakshar school for slum children is helping them to take the vital first step into education, and then supporting them all the way through their school life.
Saakshar began in 2002, as the major project of the Indian NGO, The Vigyan Vijay Foundation (VVF), a small secular charity. Saakshar School Appeal was founded in the UK in 2009 to raise support for Saakshar and to promote its work in Britain, among people in churches, schools and the wider community. With an office in Mahavir Enclave, near Palam in SW Delhi, VVF’s Saakshar project serves the local Nasirpur slum community, and nearby slum resettlement colonies in Mangalpuri and Matiyala.
Saakshar runs four small school rooms, employs ten teachers and several other staff, and prepares about 100 pre-school children for school each year, providing a year of morning lessons which equip each little learner with the confidence, understanding and social skills they need to survive at school. At the end of the year they are signed up their local government schools by Saakshar’s teachers. Saakshar also provides pre-school children with lunch, and regular medical and dental checks, as well as nutritional interventions. Every morning our four school rooms are full of the sound of happy children learning together, learning creatively through stories, songs and dance too.
Once they are at school, there are many pressures which might force these disadvantaged children to fall behind and drop out. Saakshar provides ongoing remedial support and tutoring, with additional English language and computer skills teaching for older children, so that they remain in school and can complete their education. Every afternoon the four school rooms are open for homework and tutoring sessions led by our committed staff.
Mentoring and Vocational Support
As those who have been supported throughout their education by Saakshar reach the end of their school life, Saakshar’s teachers and Coordinator provide mentoring and advice for them and for their parents too. In 2016 we established a small fund to enable us to pay for a small amount of vocational training for the students we know best. This has included driving lessons, beautician training, and training in business administration. Two female students, Rupa and Kajal, began teacher training courses, sponsored by individual donors through Saakshar School Appeal. They have made excellent progress and are due to complete their training in spring 2018. This is an outstanding achievement for young people from these communities, and we are very happy for them and their families.