Shawn Sebastian

Perfect for migrant labour in terms of tuition fee and location

When Venkanna came to Hyderabad, wife and three children in tow, from a village near Rajahmundry, his son Srinivas had reached the age to enroll for school. But there was a hitch. Venkanna and his wife had arrived to join the ever-expanding ranks of construction workers employed in building projects mushrooming all over Jubilee Hills. For a family of limited means residing in the locality’s shanty town, schooling options were few and far between. The good news, however, was that this part of Jubilee Hills had a slum school which was not only affordable but also lay close to their workplace.

Srinivas could acquire an education after all. Named Alpha, the slum school caters to the needs of close to 150 children, from LKG to Class Four standard. It is not alone and there are a number of institutions in the city that reach out to children from the slums. NGOs such as Smile Foundation and Opportunity Foundation are running slum schools in the city.

“I used to see a number of small children wandering about in slums and construction sites while their parents were at work. That made me think of the possibility of starting a school for them,” says Shobha Rani, founder of Alpha School. She established it 14 years ago.

A nominal tuition fee, less than that charged by government schools, and proximity to their workplaces is what prompts many a parent to enroll their children in these schools. “We were relieved to find this school because it is affordable for us,” says Venkanna who manages to deliver lunch to his son everyday as his worksite happens to be just a kilometre away.

Organizers of NGOs stress upon the need to have more such schools, pointing out the large number of slum dwelling children still in want of education. The 2011 census says that 31.9% of all urban households within the limits of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) are located in slums.

However, there is a view that such schools are isolating slum dwelling children. “Such isolation arises out of a desperate situation as parents don’t have any better option,” argues Dr. Anant Maringanti, Executive Director of Hyderabad Urban Labs, a city based organization that deals with civic issues. “Schools with students from diverse backgrounds are needed; however it is hard to accomplish that,” he adds.

Despite such concerns, the children studying in Alpha School are happy with what they have. “I like the school and teachers,” says Premkumar, a Class Two student whose parents drop him in at nine in the morning, just before their work starts at the construction site. The good Samaritans at schools such as Alpha are making an impact. Nevertheless, it remains a fact that the populations in slums keeps increasing year after year, and educational opportunities remain elusive for a large section of slum dwelling children.