A school with no roof

A school with no roof

Pragati Wheel School is a one of a kind satellite school in East Delhi, India. Students here are not used to walls or desks and chairs. They are exposed to elements, yet enthused about what each day has to offer. They do not start their day by opening books, instead setting up their school from scratch. An inspiring story in teamwork and the pursuit for knowledge. Meet the faces of this school.

In the age group of 0-18 years, India is home to about 442 million children. This constitutes 39 per cent of the country’s population. According to the government’s Combined Report  on Committee on the Rights of the Children (CRC), 2011, “many of the outcome indicators for children point to the disadvantaged status of children; the proportion of Child Budget in the Union Budget seems inadequate.” 

Pragati Wheel School was started in 2007, to provide education to about 250 children in the age group of 3 to 16 years. The program was started with the intent to combat child labour by providing disadvantaged children in urban settings with an opportunity to get access to education.

The students belong to families of agricultural farmers that grow vegetables and work in garden nurseries of the Yamuna bed in Delhi.

The children are from the families of agricultural farmers that grow vegetables and work in nurseries of Yamuna bed in Delhi.

Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.
The school starts a little early, with students gearing up to assemble their classrooms from scratch.
It takes an entire team to bring together the school. This child is on his way to school where the plastic chairs will be used as classroom props. 
Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.
 
school in delhi
The mats are dusted and the floors are swept. Though there are no walls, roofs or doors, the students do their best to study in a clean environment. There is much to be learnt from this teamwork. 
Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.
School in delhi
Come rain or shine, nothing can deter these students. Seen here, students setting up a shade and gearing up to study under the harsh summer sun. 
Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.
School in delhi
Adding the final finishing touches. Students use the nearby metro station wall to set up the whiteboard. 
Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.
school in delhi
School commences finally as students gather for their morning prayers.. Notice the neat rows of school bags and boards propped against chairs.
Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.
school in delhi
Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.
school in delhi
The school is managed by 14 teachers and 4 volunteers and the student-teacher ratio is 1:20 as compared to 1:31 in private schools and 1:37 in public schools. 
Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.
school in delhi
The school provides education from pre-nursery up to Xth grade and follows the CBSE course curriculum. It has science laboratory with all the necessary instruments and equipment apart from computer laboratory with 8 computers.
Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.
school in delhi
The school provides free education, morning snacks, mid-day meal apart from syllabus books, school uniform, school bags and stationery to its students.
Photo taken with consent by Dinesh Khanna for Oxfam India's Inequality Project.

 

The main advantage of the school is its location which is in close proximity to the living quarters of the families of the agricultural farmers. It is the aim to provide the children an opportunity to quality education and exploit their potential. The school is committed to tackle the growing need of amenities required for their psychological and attitudinal growth. 

What ails the Indian Education System?
Economic factors constitute the single most important reason for children not attending school or dropping out of school. The need to spend on education necessarily constrains poor families in sending their children to schools. The children are kept out of school to supplement household income. Boys, in particular, are withdrawn from school for wage work and for participation in other economic activities, whereas girls are withdrawn to attend to and perform domestic activities (NSSO, 2010).

In spite of significant expansion of schooling facilities, some basic deficiencies continue to affect the Indian schooling system. A large number of children are left out of school due to inadequate number of upper primary and secondary schools in the vicinity. Moreover, many feel that quality of learning in government schools is detereorating and the private aided schools which charges fees that are higher, the children are not sent to school. The unsustainable financial implications has an impact on the enrollment and absenteeism. 

Pragati wheel School is located in close proximity to Yamuna river bed, in East Delhi, which is the living quarters of its demographics. It is providing education facilities to their doorstep and bringing an attitudinal change towards the need for education and open a window of opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and inequality. 

This seemingly small school under the bridge can teach many established schools a lesson in imparting quality education. Here are the takeaways:

  • To provide basic education and personal development to less privileged children.
  • To provide them with exposure to professional opportunities outside their farming communities.
  • To create a financially sustainable model and associate it with a larger Civil Society Organisation (CSO)  for quality schooling and extending opportunities for skill training and employment.

Can satellite school model be the answer for educating underprivileged students?
Though Pragati Wheel School plays an important example for the alternate schooling model. However, satellite schools in India still face a myriad issues. These can be addressed by: 

  1. Strengthening the teaching faculty through recruiting more qualified and experienced teachers.
  2. Retention of the girl child up to secondary schooling (Xth grade)
  3. Use of technology to make teaching-learning interesting through ICT.
  4. Promoting skill development and vocational courses for youth in the age group of 15 and above. 

Source:
[1] It is combined report prepared by Central, States, NGOs and UNICEF
[2] India: Third and Fourth Combined Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child

YOU TOO CAN CONTRIBUTE TOWARDS ENSURING THAT EVERY CHILD IN INDIA GETS A CHANCE TO RECEIVE QUALITY EDUCATION. DONATE NOW

About the Author 
Dinesh Khanna is a renowned Indian photographer known for portrait style photography. Apart from multiple photography projects, he is also the author of two pictorial books 'Bazaar' and 'Living Faith' that reflect Khanna's understanding of world and life. He is the co-founder and director of the 'Delhi Photo Festival'. Know more here.


About Oxfam India's Inequality Project
Oxfam India believes that reducing inequality is fundamental to fair and sustainable development of any nation or society. Hence we have launched a campaign to create awareness about the widening gap between rich and poor, and take action. Every year (during the World Economic Forum at Davos in January) Oxfam releases a global report to track inequality in the world. This year, the report found that in India, Richest 1% population cornered 73% of the country’s wealth generated in 2017

For centuries, too many people have lived and died in poverty on the margins of society, suffering discrimination and robbed of opportunity because they are born girls, born poor, or born into the marginalized section of the society. Today these age-old disparities have been further entrenched by an unprecedented concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a small elite

Through the India Inequality Project, Oxfam India aims to create an engaging photo series (inventive, urban & youth centric) to deepen the understanding and emotional engagement of people with the inequality in India. 

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