The Dalit people or ‘untouchables’ are India’s lowest caste. They are shunned by society and suffer from exclusion, discrimination and exploitation. Bihar is the poorest state in India and 81% of its population are suffering from poor health and nutrition, lack of access to education, and substandard living conditions.
Bihar also has one of the highest concentrations of Dalit people and being a deeply conservative region the caste system (despite being outlawed by the post-independence constitution) still dictates the order of modern life for millions here. Cities and villages are divided by caste with a clear hierarchy of rights and opportunities assigned to a person based upon their heritage.
Government primary schools in Dalit majority areas are scarce, and those that do exist are so poorly staffed and equipped that children rarely attend. If they do manage to enrol in schools, Dalit children are frequently discriminated against, being made to sit at the back of the class and restricted from touching or interacting with children from other castes. As a result, those who do make it into school often drop out at an early age.
How we are helping
We are working to bring together three small, active and engaged local partners to provide quality education for Dalit children aged 6-12, up to grade 3, which will enable them to access and integrate into mainstream, government middle schools where they will be able to continue their education up to grade 10. This will better their chances of employment in the future, not only in a general educational sense but because preference for government jobs is given to Dalit children who have completed grade 10.
This education will be delivered to over 800 Dalit children through 26 Education Centres across both the poorest slum areas of Patna and the outlying rural villages of Vaishali District. These Centres will become bright, child friendly spaces equipped with the resources necessary for these children to engage and learn. We will also support children’s clubs in the slums every weekend as an outlet for play, creativity and self-expression.
Due to the discrimination being faced by these children, the work here strives to foster self expression and critical thinking with a particular focus on child rights. The 29 teachers who work in the Centres are being trained to develop theoretical and practical knowledge on child rights, child protection and Dalit rights.
Change must take place on a community level to enable Dalit groups to recognise and access their rights. To instigate this change Community Action Groups will be formed in each community, which will comprise of parents, staff and community leaders.
Read about the project in more detail
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