We work with partners in Bihar State, India, providing education for ‘Dalit’ children who are denied access to school. Recently we have established a new ‘rooftop’ school as a creative solution to providing education in a severely crowded and muddy slum area.
Despite the caste system being outlawed, its hierarchical rules still pervade across India and result in the oppression and exclusion of those in ‘lower’ castes. The Dalits are considered to be the bottom rung of the caste system, and are often known as ‘untouchables’.
We support 25 schools in Patna, both in the urban and rural areas, but recently our partners identified one urban slum area facing severe poverty, crowding and appalling conditions. The ground is too sodden and muddy to build on, there is a lack of space to rent and any shelter that is available is often cramped, dark and flooded. The idea for a 'rooftop' school provided a creative solution for a classroom, avoiding the muddy slum floor. The children are now able to be out in the fresh air, using the rooftop school to gain an education.
This urban slum area where the new school is located is a ‘Musahar’ community, who are considered the lowest strata of the Dalit caste, also known as ‘rat eaters’. The children that attend this school have been called ‘rat pickers’ by locals, and we are working with them, not only to provide education, but to rebuild their sense of self worth and awareness of their rights.
Sister Veena, project leader in the urban Patna schools says “Every person has an inbuilt capacity for change. Children with limited resources are able to bring a change in their lives and life of the community. I would like to see their self esteem and self image grow stronger. I want them to grow in a loving and caring atmosphere”.
Just £22 pays for a month’s rent for the rooftop classroom.
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