10-year-old Nalini scarcely went to school. She has dyslexia and kept getting her words wrong in class. Her teacher scolded her. Her classmates made fun of her. Feeling alone and useless, this little girl dropped out of school completely… and into a life of unimaginable danger.
“When I found Nalini, she was severely malnourished and picking up nails by the railway tracks. Children can make a few rupees by collecting nails and wood shavings from the nearby factory. But trains thunder by just inches from where they’re crouched on the ground.” — Geeta, a street educator.
Geeta was determined to rescue Nalini from this horror. She worked hard to enrol her in a new school, convincing the teachers that Nalini was ready and eager to learn. She helped Nalini with her homework and accompanied her to class every day, making sure this little girl didn’t drop out of school again.
Street educators work round-the-clock to get children off the streets and into school.
In Delhi alone, there are approximately 51,000 street children like Nalini. Many have migrated to the city to find work because their families are so poor. Others come from so-called ‘street families’: second or even third generation children born into a life of abject poverty on the streets.
Life is incredibly tough for these youngsters. Working on rubbish tips or begging at traffic lights, they’re exposed to injury and disease every day of their lives. Most are shunned by society, and without proper legal protection many fall prey to trafficking or sexual abuse. Thousands of these children are completely illiterate — and without an education, most will have no hope of making it off the streets. Ever.
Street educators turn children’s lives around — it’s as simple as that. These dedicated people identify the most vulnerable children in the community and work tirelessly to enrol them in school. This isn’t as easy as it might seem. Some teachers don’t want to take on boys and girls from the street, worried they will drag down the school’s grades. Others are reluctant to teach street children due to the stigma surrounding them.
This stigma means that street educators have to work extra-hard to get children like Nalini into school — and keep them there. So they train teachers in the difficult issues that street children face. They run education clubs to help street children adapt to school life. They help with homework and make sure boys and girls get to class on time. They may even go to parents’ evenings to speak up for children.
So far, our ‘Street to School’ project is helping over 500 street children like Nalini enrol in schools across the city. That’s over 500 vulnerable boys and girls who now have the chance to study and escape a life of abject poverty on the streets. And with your help, our inspirational street educators could reach even more vulnerable children.
So many of the street children we’ve enrolled in school are doing incredibly well. Some are even at the top of their class — an amazing achievement given where they’ve come from. As for Nalini, her teacher says she’s one of the most creative pupils in her class, with dreams of becoming an engineer one day.