A few years back The Times of India ran a front-page article focusing on a UNESCO report that revealed up to 90 percent of India’s school children remain illiterate after four years of education in state schools. This shocking statistic is exacerbated in India’s poorest states, especially Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where most of the slum children in the Outram Lines slum come from.
There have also been several cases of children in government schools across India being accidentally poisoned by contaminated cooking oil during school meals. The most high profile case was in early 2013 when over 20 school children died in one day after consuming a contaminated school meal in the state of Bihar.
The Delhi-based slum where Shiksha Rath is based is almost entirely made up of impoverished families displaced from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and a small number (10 percent) from Nepal.
Shiksha Rath has been involved with the slum for years and tried to place high achieving children into existing schools, but due to their background, these children are often bullied.
For this reason, it was decided a separate academy, purely for children within the slum, would be the only way to improve the situation, instill some hope and help combat the vicious cycle of poverty: Shiksha Rath was born.
The idea of the academy is to provide a top-class, intenseeducation to a small number of highly-motivated slumchildren so they can go on to inspire the confidence and career opportunities of future slum children.
Other non-academy children within the slum will continue to benefit from tutorial lessons from the volunteersat ShikshaRath, who will help them to pass theirschool exams and look for employment opportunities once they leave school.
SikshaRath have spent over six months selecting the 30 academy pupils. A pre-academy selection school was set up to monitor how regularly the children attended, their levels of enthusiasm and effort plus a number of written tests.
By these means, 30 children were selected, all of them with full cooperation and support of their families within the slum. The fact Touch India Trust has worked within the slum for over four years means the team have already built up a good trustworthy relationship with the slum families.
Being the only charity currently operating in the slum the ShikshaRath team have also conducted a detailed survey of the families living there – including average incomes, numbers living in each household
The seed capital for ShikshaRath has been provided entirely by Brainerd, Atula and their English friend, Tom Fremantle, a travel writer and charity worker, who has spent several months in Bihar and with further advice and website assistance from Jean Marc Debricon, at the Green Shoots Foundation, London.