Okhla

OKHLA

Sophiya, our senior most staff came to us one day in 2003 and told us about the plight of children in the area where she lives – Okhla. Okhla is a Suburban colony in South Delhi more commonly known as Okhla Industrial Area, situated near the bank of Yamuna river. 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.

The Okhla education entre began its activities in 2004 to address the problems of an extremely vulnerable group of children who were targeted by drug and other mafias. Space was not easy to find and the only option was a space 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.

Today, Okhla Centre has a pucca structure, thanks to the generosity of Mr. Kabir Suri of Azure Hospitality. Both Primary and Secondary support classes are supported which cater to over 183 children in two shifts. A computer centre was added in 2005. Environment and other related issues are also part of our program and the children have themselves planted green plants in front of the school. This year we plan to extend our educational support to include classes of 11 and 12.

PRIMARY PROJECT

NUMBER OF CHILDREN: 20 boys 10 girls

PROJECT COST: Rs. 22 000 – 330 US$; 230 £

High drop out rates in municipal and government schools and extremely poor performance of children prompted us to start our after school education support programme. Our main objective is to enhance school performance, contain drop out rates and ensure access to secondary school. Children coming from urban slums are unable to cope with their studies. This is often due to poor teaching conditions within the school, and lack of help from home as parents are often illiterate. Moreover children have no place to study, no access to books or tutors. The primary programme is by far the most important one as it is in these classes that most children drop out.
SECONDARY PROJECT

NUMBER OF CHILDREN: 58 boys 50 girls

PROJECT COST: Rs. 32,000; US$ 480; 330 £

Writing about this class is akin to writing the project why story. Our Senior Secondary Project began on the roadside in the dead of winter 2001 to answer yet another deafening why. A bunch of class X students from our Spoken English class has been beaten in school. This was inadmissible to us and a visit to the school brought to light the contempt with which children from poorer homes were treated. The Principal sneered at them, calling them gutter snipes that would never be able to pass their Boards. The body language of the children compelled us to throw a challenge stating that they would ALL pass!

COMPUTER PROJECT

PROJECT COST: Rs. 49,000

As everything at Project Why, the computer centre started because children wanted it. When we opened our office in 2001, we installed a computer for our office work. As we follow an open door policy, children use to walk in and out and we soon realised that it was because of the computer. We would allow some of the children to sit at it and would show them how it worked. We knew that the next item on our list had to be a computer centre.

In no time, we managed to get a few old computers and our computer project saw the light of day.