Last year, the pandemic caused havoc to the educational ecosystem of India. With schools and colleges shutting down, a significant number of students were locked away at home, eyeing an uncertain future. While professionals resumed work in the remote setup. Kids struggled with their learning experience. Education became highly passive and uninteresting. But the situation was far grimmer for low-income households in India. Parents struggled to provide smartphones and laptops to their kids. Being entirely dependent on their savings during the lockdown, buying new devices seemed burdensome.
As a result, there was a huge dropout in schools. Close to 250 million children in India were adversely affected due to school closures due to the early lockdowns imposed by the government in response to Covid-19. Several children from less-privileged circumstances ended up dropping out of school, some were forced to take up jobs in order to support their families who were dealing with the crisis of income loss and deaths that were brought about by the pandemic. At Rang De, we decided to raise education loans for students who are at an economic disadvantage and help reduce the dropout rates. We dig into one such story to understand the nitty-gritty of what it takes to keep children educated and the journey until now.
A new partnership
We partnered with Iteach who facilitates a community of free, transformational schools for the most under-resourced children in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation. They started in 2015 to bridge the gap in the education landscape in the city of Pune and enable students from low-income backgrounds to create a destiny of their choice. Education is a crucial stepping stone for many. People who don’t have a claim to ancestral properties, or family businesses, only have education as their stronghold. Sadly, the situation is so dire for low-income households. Interventions of organisations like Iteach guarantee them the right to basic education. Here’s why? Lack of Secondary Schools Among Pune’s education landscape, one of the biggest challenges is the lack of access to free secondary education. Of the 54 English Medium Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) Schools, none go beyond Grade VII.
The children from the poorest households are left with three options – Either enrol into private schools which are exorbitantly expensive else switch to a Marathi medium secondary school or drop out. Eventually, the majority drops out.
College Admission Rates The national average number of students enrolling in senior colleges post Grade XII is just 26%, which leads to them having no chance of reaching sustainable, well-paying employment opportunities in the organised sector.
Poverty Rates More than one-third of Pune’s population lives in slums under poor living, sanitary, and schooling conditions. This only gets worse as the city continues to attract an increasing number of migrants from across the country with a promise of a better future.
On close observation, the three need areas mentioned are interrelated. Lack of access to secondary education restricts entry into colleges thereby cutting off access to sustainable employment opportunities ultimately zeroing down to poverty.
What Iteach and Rang De bring to the table?
With this partnership, the aim is to safeguard the prospective career of students. Unlock their potential by enabling them to pursue higher education. teach engages with a community of people who have substantially low income. Parents belong to communities of street vendors, fishers, maids, drivers, labourers, security guards, housekeepers and other daily wage earners.
The higher risk of dropouts is faced by girls as they are married off at a very juvenile age. Iteach brings them into the educational framework thereby giving them the scope to venture into new roads.
If there are instances where parents fail to provide for the children, Iteach engages to solve their problem, help them get the best possible credit options, give them scholarships or talk to the administration to work out a more lenient way to pay school fees.
Dhammapal Ji, a spokesperson for Iteach, highlighted that the dropout rates reduced drastically after their intervention as they made education more dynamic and promising for their students. Iteach provides life-skill projects enabling students to take up part-time jobs. Courses like tally, computer technology and other soft skills are given free of cost through the partnerships of Iteach. This enables the students to contribute to the income of the family which is deemed to be their ultimate responsibility.
The role of Rang De Imagine, what if education loans were interest-free? Here are the current loan rates of traditional banks in India. These rates are surmounted by operational fees and collaterals for security. This ultimately becomes a highly unlikely option for parents to access. Students have to settle for less expensive courses all at the cost of their ambitions.
Rang De Social Investors give wings to these kids – Pratik is one of them. Pratik’s father takes pride in telling his peers that his child is pursuing higher education in one of the esteemed colleges of Pune. Pratik’s parents are elated about seeing their son securing his own future on his own terms.