The cities in India are magnets for migrant labour from parts of the country where job opportunities are less plentiful. Many of those arriving in cities like Bangalore end up in slums, feeling like foreigners in their own country.
Not knowing the local language is particularly hard on their children who struggle to fit into the free government schools where the teaching is done mainly in Kannada, the language spoken by the locals, or in the private schools which use the English language.
Mom Banerjee, the founder of Samridhdhi Trust , has come up with a unique and highly effective solution to this problem. She has created Bridge Schools where children from the local slums are given a year of intense and tailored education to improve their language skills and get them ready to be “mainstreamed”. They even have provisions for the care of the younger siblings of these children while their parents are at work.
At the schools they are taught by young and dedicated teaching staff and get provided nutritious midday meals thanks to the Akshaya Patra Foundation. They are taught basic literacy and numeracy, and learn a number of new languages including English and Kannada.
At the end of academic year, the children are independently assessed for their level of attainment so they can start school with the best chance of keeping up with others in their classroom. The families have a choice of opting for the free government education or sending their child to a fee paying private school.
Samridhdhi pays half the school fees and encourages the family to pay the rest in monthly instalments. By working in close partnership with the communities the children live in, they are ensuring that the families understand the value of education and are personally invested in their child’s future.
Once these children are at school, Samridhdhi provides them homework support and access to extra-curricular activities via After School Clubs. They also provide them with nutritious meals in the knowledge that they may not get much to eat at home. It is not hard to imagine the challenges these children face when at school with children who are from a very different socioeconomic background to their own.
Children who are coming to the end of their schooling have the option to join a Finishing School which focuses on making students more employable by teaching them certain life skills (including computer literacy) and providing vocational training. They are also working with potential employers who may provide internships as an increasingly powerful way to improve chances of young adults attempting a transition out of poverty.
We are very impressed with the approach Samridhdhi has taken to a problem that is vast and growing. Rather than focusing on just one aspect of education (sending children to school), they have joined several dots to ensure that entire communities benefit, and that there is a greater chance of success at every step of the way for every child in their care.
On 18th September 2016 we formally agreed to support one of Samridhdhi’s After School projects for 100 children and fund the school fees for 30 students to the academic year June 2017.
The funding for after school activities pays for healthy evening snacks, the wages of the Project Co-ordinator, educational and recreational trips, prizes for the children and learning aids. In total, we donated just over £14,000 for the academic year ending June 2017.
We aim to raise sufficient funds to pay for the after school club support for 120 children and school fees of 30 students for the academic year ending June 2018.