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School gives Nithari’s children a glimmer of hope
Manjusha Madhu  8th Oct 2011

Saksham kids in their classes

ithari has become synonymous with death, gore and tragedy. But visit the Saksham School, located right in the heart of the Nithari slum and set up for the children of the basti, and you'll know that there is another story being written as we speak — one of hope, growth and faith. "95% of the kids here are first-generation learners," explains Nadira, a co-founder of Saksham. Today Saksham, with 15 teachers and hundreds of students, stands proud, having churned out 1,500 literate people since its inception. Among its success stories are two girls — Sonali and Soni. Sonali, a former teacher at Saksham, is now a first-year Hindi student at the prestigious Lady Shri Ram College, while Soni, after her education from Saksham, gained employment with a real estate agency.

Saksham began its journey as an informal school at the turn of the millennium, when Nadira decided to give free one-hour lessons to the children of the basti. In 2003, Saksham registered itself as a trust in an effort to lend direction to their efforts and since then, it has grown into a full-fledged informal school with classes in two shifts a day: 8.30am-12pm and 3pm-7pm. Apart from kids who don't go to school, there are also children who go to regular schools and then come to Saksham. Students who have been at the school for 2-3 years become teachers to help some of the youngest kids study. Former student Preeti says, "I am in class XII now. I go to school in the morning and teach here in the evening." Apart from teaching the kids in the slum area, Saksham has also helped in educating some of the mothers. "I came here to drop my son. But he refused to sit here alone. Accompanying him, I thought I should also learn to read and write," says Firojah, a 40-year-old mother of five.Image 2nd

As I work my way through the crowded lanes with open drains leading up to the school, I am struck with the reality that is Nithari. The basti today is home to thousands of migrants, mostly from Bihar, who have come to the metropolis to earn a better living. They are mostly illiterate, rickshaw pullers or small-time vendors with around 4-5 children. "With the RTE act, the private schools that are unrecognised but functioning will not meet the set parameters. We have to ensure quality, but in case the RTE is strictly enforced and these schools are forced to shut, where will all these kids go to study," asks a worried Nadira. As of now, there is just one government school in the area to cater to the basti's burgeoning population.

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