Education is the most fundamental element in the struggle against poverty and child labour.
School is the first step
Even a minimum level of education is the key to a better income and to founding a smaller family in general. The children of our current project children will be able to go to school instead of having to work.
In the autumn of 2009, the Indian government introduced free and compulsory education. All children from 6 to 14 years now have the right to go to a free public school. The experienced reality, however, is completely different: Nobody cares - at least in Kolkata - about the schooling of children in the said age. Parents also need to pay for textbooks, school uniforms or private tutoring which is impossible for the poorest. In addition, teachers do not always take their job seriously enough and often demand money in addition. According to a study by the World Bank in 2004, one in four teachers in Indian public schools never appears in class. As the situation has not changed so far, there is enough for us to do.
Our children go to public government or private schools, but still come to our project daily for lunch and help with schoolwork (so-called coaching). Here they are taught by our teachers in small groups who can simultaneously concentrate on any problems that might occur.
Training as a way forward
We would like to offer the children a perspective for their future beyond the slums. In order to achieve this even a high school degree is not necessarily enough. Vocational training after completion of their schooling can lead them further. We generally offer all children of HELGO support for a vocational training. This offer is not always accepted, some kids want to start earning immediately after completing school.
Those students who receive a higher school leaving certificate (comparable to O’ or A’ levels) in the 10th or 12th class can participate in a more sophisticated training scheme such as becoming a computer technician, civil engineer or nurse. These professionals are in high demand in India and can expect a good income. The training programmes are often arranged in cooperation with partner organisations. For example, since many years we have a close cooperation with the vocation training institute Don Bosco SERI.
Supporting not only the selected project children
Beyond the intense support for our "project children" we also provide broader support and learning opportunities for the community. We are working closely with the parents - especially the mothers - of our project children. Our social workers use the monthly parent meetings to discuss a variety of topics - e.g. around hygiene, nutrition or handling money.
Another initiative of our project is our "Open Learning Centre" next to the garbage dump in Liluah. Here kids who are not attending primary school for all kinds of reasons have the opportunity to enjoy the safe space of our centre for some hours every day. Our staff in the meantime is reviving their interest in learning through games and activities.