In 2003, Sophiya, one of our senior most staff, told us about the plight of children in the area where she lived. Okhla is a suburban colony in South Delhi more commonly known as Okhla Industrial Area. The ‘area’ is a mix of factories and slum tenements that are tucked away in-between the factories.
At that time, over 90% of children in the area did not attend school and were either roaming the streets or used by local mafias to steal and push drugs
The Okhla education centre began its activities in 2004 to address the problems of this extremely vulnerable group of children. Space was not easy to find and the only option was an empty spot near a garbage dump. It was ‘reclaimed’ and classes began under a plastic sheet held by bamboo poles. It took a while for the community to realise the worth of our intervention but they did and we could carry on unhindered.
Okhla is by far one of main the success stories of Project Why.
In May-June, we distributed dry ration to the families in need in the centre.
In June, we opened the centres but teachers were coming on alternate days to maintain social distancing. The centre was sanitized every morning. We took regular online classes but we were also facing lots of issues with the children as many of them did not have internet or even an android phone, most of the time many children just had one phone in the family and that was taken by the parent to work so we had to take late night classes when they returned form work. The resource persons managed to cover the syllabus of the students. We had to take parent teacher meeting to explain to the parents that it is important that the children attend online classes as it will be the main way of teaching for some time. After a few struggles, we managed to get the children to show interest in online teaching.
We unfortunately lost many of our children in this pandemic as they were made to work to help sustain the family.
We celebrated all the festivals virtually and we decorated the class.
In December our funders from UK sponsored the roof repair of the class. We received some computer tables for the centre. We have also been taking regular assessments.
TOTAL STUDENTS IN OKHLA: 207
TOTAL TEACHERS IN OKHLA: 8
The Okhla Centre began as a primary outreach programme but as the first batch of children reached class VI they urged us to begin a secondary section. We did as we were aware of the need and knew that without support many children were likely to drop out. Today the centre runs classes upto class XII. Many of our students have graduated and gone to pursue higher education and joined the job market thus breaking the cycle of poverty in which they were born.
The Okhla computer centre was started on the demand of the children with one laptop! On the insistence of the children and with the help of friends we were able to create a space for a proper computer centre for the children and it is undoubtedly their favourite place as it is the only computer centre in the area. Children are taught basic and advanced computer skills as well as hardware and repair.