“Literacy is inseparable from opportunity, and opportunity is inseparable from freedom. The freedom promised by literacy is both freedom from – from ignorance, oppression, poverty – and freedom to – to do new things, to make choices, to learn.”
– Koichiro Matsuura
South Asia has the highest number (36.1 million) of children out-of-school globally (UNESCO). The majority of these live in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (UNICEF).
In India, families living in slums or poor urban neighbourhoods often face many barriers to opportunity and don’t have a lot of choices available to them. When education competes with priorities like putting food on the table or finding a source of income it can become out of reach for many children. Barriers to education can include household poverty, disability, child labour, gender discrimination, child marriage, household expectations, and generational norms and attitudes(UNESCO). Even things as seemingly simple as holding a valid birth certificate or having a level of literacy to complete an enrolment form can be barriers to education.
The good news is that it’s not beyond us to contribute to solution. We pray and we also respond practically through partnership. The Colour Sisterhood has faithfully supported the work of Vision Rescue in India for 7 years. Vision Rescue’s non-formal education program engages out-of-school children, encouraging an inspiring them to continue with their education. The goal is to transition students into formal schooling, setting them up for a more positive future.
Joy Naskar is 11 years old and lives in the Chinamandir slum in Kolkata. Joy’s family moved from their village to Kolkata so his dad could find work. However, after some time Joy’s dad lost his job and the family ended up living in the slum. He bought a cycle rickshaw with which he could earn a small amount of money. He was able to pay for his daughter to go to school but not Joy and his brother. When Vision Rescue started working in Chinamandir, Joy’s father was one of the first to bring his boys along. Joy was eager to learn, asked lots of questions, and attended the bus program regularly for two years. Last year one of the prestigious schools in Kolkata invited applications for their evening school, which is designed to help kids from poor backgrounds to attend formal schooling. The Vision Rescue team were able to help Joy prepare and he successfully completed the interview and testing and was admitted into Class 2. Joy’s future is looking bright!
Vision Rescue, through experience, know that the barriers to education are varied and there is no simple one-size-fits-all solution. Vision Rescue’s work continues to evolve as they pursue a community-based model to better understand and respond to the reasons why children aren’t in school. Through relationship development, a household case management approach, and networking and linking to services, effective responses can be implemented with the goal of getting kids in school where they belong. Vision Rescue are passionate about the transformation and intergenerational impact that education will have!
Perhaps ‘Pencils & Paper & Lessons with Love’ could be your #500project?! $500 AUD can sponsor 1 child onto the “Sisterhood’ bus in Kolkata for a year, providing non-formal education and a hot meal 5 days a week.
We pray for children to successfully transition into formal schooling. We pray for inspiration and energy for teachers. We pray for families to be strong and healthy and for a valuing of education in communities. We pray for effective networking and partnership among local communities, organisations and local governments for greater impact.
Together we can contribute to seeing more children accessing their right to education and unlocking opportunity and freedom!