Shopkeeper who teaches Indian slum children at his school under a bridge

Discrimination of marginalised children

We are not the only ones who are passionate about education. In each community, there are citizens crying out for help and doing all they can to ensure children have access to basic education.

Children in the Indian city of New Delhi have been given an opportunity to learn thanks to local shopkeeper Rajesh Kumar Sharma. He set up a school under a bridge, after learning that there is nowhere for many children in the slums to access education.

He said: “I saw children playing in the mud. Some of the kids were as old as 12 or 14. They were just wasting their time and didn’t go to school.”

He teaches maths, reading and writing for three hours a day and provides all learning materials for free. He now has 90 students and last month – thanks to donations from a Facebook page – he installed new flooring for his classes.

Rajesh’s school – which has just been featured on the RYOT website – may be under a bridge, among dirt and garbage but he has painted blackboards on the wall and he intends to keep teaching until a proper school is built.

Teach for India, an organisation that believes every child should be in school, says 4% of Indian children never start school, 58% don’t complete primary school and 90% don’t achieve a secondary school education.

UNICEF reports that during 2008-2012, 58.5% of boys of upper secondary school age went to school in India and only 48.7% of girls. This means that more than half of upper secondary age girls in India are not receiving an education.

Teach for India say this means eight million children in India cannot write their own name.

So why is this? Globally, one of the major blocks to education is that children are sent out to work, forced in to labour by poverty.

Save The Children reports that more than 40million children under 14 are victims of child labour. They are working in mines, on street stalls and doing domestic labour. And many Indian children are trafficked as sex workers.

But there is hope for Indian children, because of dedicated people like Rajesh and his school under the bridge.

Along with community activists, organisations such as Save The Children, Global March Against Child Labour and Teach for India are working to get children out of child labour and into education.

Soon there will only be 500 days left to meet the December 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goal of education for all. So we must keep fighting for universal education and pressure global leaders to keep their promise of meeting this target.

Rajesh says: “Education is the biggest right and weapon for a kid. If they don’t have this then they are doomed for life.”

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