“He gave me a space in his families home and then I could start my first school. I had two children at first.”
Sonu sits across from us on the floor, her petite frame set alive by the brightness of her eyes. She explains how she came to be sat here, on the floor of a small classroom in Delhi as a pose to her home country of Nepal.
“Now 500-600 students have completed their studies from our school. Many go on and get their certificates after they leave us and most go on and get better jobs than could have been imagined”.
What started as a small operation out of one front room has now grown into three schools right in the heart of the Slums of Delhi. Change can always start small, but the aim for Sonu is to grow and assist more and more people.
“It’s not always easy” she admits, although schools are free here, for many families food and survival rightly so become the priority. She structures the timetables around this so that more families are happier to allow their children the time to study.
It’s hard for us, as the western visitors for whom school was compulsory, to grasp the reality of how so many do not have access or opportunity to develop. By simply spending time here and seeing the teachers in action and the excellent Maths, English and Reading skills of the children you quickly realise why projects and people like Sonu’s are so important.
“I went to every door to collect the children. I told them why Education was so important. How Education will bring you the bright future.”
There is no doubt that begging can become the main reason for children not to attend school. In a country with a highly evident caste system and karma believed in, donations to beggars can add up and seem a much better time investment than sending children to school.
The sad reality is the teary eyes and ripped clothes of a child can easily provide more of an income from an extended hand than some can earn from their main jobs.
Sonu stood by her aim though and the number of students who have gone on from her small schools to higher certificate education is evident.
We walk down a dusty train track, an old and tired engine slowly makes its way along the line heading away from the smog of Delhi. We arrive at what appeared on first glance to be a pile of rubble. As a stained yet colourful cloth was lifted, a room of ladies knitting and smiling back appears.
It isn’t just Children who need opportunities here, everyone should have the chance to grow. The projects for empowering women work alongside the schools, giving these ladies the time to concentrate and learn whilst their children do the same a few doors down.
Work opportunities are slim here, many people working almost like a factory line and being paid a measly sum upon completing 1000+ items.
Through small projects and on the ground job opportunities from visitors have provided work at a good and fair price, slowly skills are being developed and oppotunities presenting them selves.
“I hope slowly this community will grow and education will bring more opportunities to everyone.” she says as we depart. Although we all walk away in silence, there is no doubt we are all thinking the same thing.
This women and her passion is un-describable.
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