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
Donate to this work
Over the last three years, through the work we have supported in Soweto slum (within the Masese II area of Jinja), we have seen the lives of vulnerable children completely transformed.
This was our first pilot project in Uganda and, building on its success, we are starting out on an exciting journey of replicating this work in a series of nearby slum communities. Sadly the needs in these places are just as great as Soweto’s were three years ago. They are called Loco, Masese I and Masese III.
Loco is a small slum community, formed of basic rows of barracks that were owned by the railway corporation for their workers. Whilst the land is still owned by this company, the demise of the railway has meant that the accommodation is now rented to the poorest families at the cheapest rate in town.
The high rate of HIV has resulted in many widows, child-headed and Grandparent-headed households. General health, hygiene and sanitation within the community is poor and there is an additional malaria problem due to the slum’s proximity to a large lake.
There is a serious alcoholism problem here, leaving children especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Rampant theft and frequent instances of domestic violence also create a volatile environment. Child neglect is rife, with children regularly abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
The nearby nursery school and primary school are both run down and expensive to attend, stopping the most vulnerable children from enrolling.
Masese I is a large, densely populated lakeside slum community, formed mostly of internally displaced people from Northern Uganda. It is ten times the size of Soweto with a population of around 500,000.
70% of the community have no permanent jobs, and with casual labour paying an average of 1500 shillings a day (approx 30p), rent is too expensive. Consequently many children have to work finding firewood to pay for rent and food instead of going to school. For those that do want to pursue education, many can’t afford the school costs or nursery fees.
The community is mainly made up of widows, single mothers, child mothers and child headed households. Many children are abandoned when single mothers try to solve their problems by marrying, only to find that their children are not welcome in the new household. Many are orphaned through HIV and malaria.
Masese III is a slum community for low cost renters with an estimated population of around 5,000. The community consists of many Karamojong people, who are a nomadic group from Northern Uganda.
The Karamojong traditionally let their children wander unattended, resulting in many left alone and vulnerable all day whilst their parents are working. Child marriage is a serious issue in this area due to traditional practices, which can be brutal. Child headed households (often as a result of HIV) and child protection issues are rife and alcoholism is a recurring problem.
Over the past few years the community have become dependent on food handouts from a neighbouring organisation who is about to move on, so they desperately need to develop sustainable incomes and food sources.
What we have done so far
Following our pilot, the first, crucial step is to have established a Child Protection Team in each area, who are working to empower the local residents to provide a safe environment for their children.
This team are building relationships in each place, identifying the problems specific to each area and beginning to address them through workshops and training sessions. The workshops are dealing with many issues including child development, parenting techniques, child rights, reproductive health and alcohol abuse. They will also offer individual support to vulnerable families.
What we’re going to do over the next few years
Find out more about our expansion in Uganda
Donate to the new projects