Vivekanand Camp jhuggie

From Carol Lemley…

“The Vivekanand Camp jhuggie (hut/slum) colony located across the street from the American Embassy School in New Delhi , has been existence for about 25 years. In the beginning, the huts were plastic or cardboard shelters that housed contract laborers. Over the years, the residents have built brick and wood structures, found enough work in the area for subsistence, and raised children.

Of the approximately 1000 residents (228 families), there are about     240 children, from kindergarten age through grade 12, who regularly attend neighborhood “government schools”. School is free, but there are expenses that the parents, who earn about 50—80 rupees a day on construction sites (45 rupees to a dollar), cannot afford to pay.  The American Embassy School through its outreach programs furnishes its neighbors with the required school uniforms and supplies.

Most of the kids are determined to succeed in school, but there are serious obstacles. Many parents can neither read nor write, so they cannot help their children with homework.  Additionally, the one-room homes (many around 8 x 10 feet) are crowded with siblings and noise; and electricity is undependable. There is no quiet place in all of the jhuggie to do homework or to study for exams.

It was only two years ago that the first boy from this community managed to complete 12th grade. One more graduated last year. Two more 12th grade boys have high hopes to succeed this year, and they will be followed by two girls and two boys who are now in 11th grade.

In order to pass 8th, 10th, and 12th grades, students must pass the formidable national exams. They compete with the middle- and upper-class students whose parents can afford to send them to private school.  The jhuggie kids go to government schools, where teachers have a poor record of attending, or even teaching the classes if they are attending.

The difference between success and failure for students living in the kind of  poverty found in Vivekanand Camp is whether or not the family can manage to find the extra 300-600 ($6.60 -$13.00) rupees in their budgets each month to  pay for qualified tutoring. Rarely is this possible—the needs for food, clothing and medical expenses have to be the families’ immediate priorities. Families are especially unwilling to spend extra on their daughters, as sons take priority in their society.

To date, no students have passed their national board exams without tutoring, especially in the areas of higher mathematics, economics, English, and accounts. Students usually have to go several kilometers away to study with qualified tutors, and girls are almost never allowed to go out due to parental concerns about possible harassment and their custom of keeping them in the home.

It is for this reason that the study hall project was envisioned. It would be a safe, quiet place for students to study that is close to their homes. It would also be a place where the tutors could provide the extra instruction necessary; and girls would be allowed to attend. Our hope is to make available sufficient funding to ensure quality tutoring for all Vivekanand Camp students who need it, especially in the middle and high school years.

There are presently 95 boys and girls at these levels. Without passing these exams, they can not go ahead in school. Although it is possible to re-take the exams the following year, many students get discouraged or succumb to family pressure to get a laborer’s job to help feed the family. They have a hard time maintaining hope that they will succeed the “next time”. Better that they have the support they need to succeed the first time. These children (all of the lower castes) are the first in their families who dare to hope and believe they can complete an education which will qualify them for better jobs and opportunities.

A note from me:

At the moment, Carol and I are happily accepting donations.  We’re not tax deductible, but you can be sure that not one penny will be spent on “administration” and mailings.

The money will go first into building the study hall (if the permission comes through…..and it’s looking good), and then into a “tutor fund”. We’re still working on how to structure the requests for and hiring of tutors.

Thanks for the checks that have come in.  The address in the US for sending donations is on my home page.   ~ rg