Whilst India is emerging as a power on the world stage, the contrast between rich and poor is still profound. According to a study published in 2016Citation, India is the second most unequal country in the world, with just 1% of the population owning over 50% of the total wealth. For those at the bottom of the heap, life is tough. Figures are endlessly disputed, but probably around a quarter of the population – an estimated 300 million people – still live below an extremely low poverty line.
What are the challenges?
Grinding poverty and illiteracy. Hunger. Limited job opportunities. Lack of access to health care, good sanitation and clean water… and more. A recent studyCitation of poverty in Kolkata’s slums showed households with children suffered significantly higher levels of deprivation than those without children, putting children at particular risk
The Pavement Club was established to give slum children the chance of schooling – and healthy meals too. It’s informal, but it works. Initially, classes were delivered quite literally on the pavement with just a handful of children, but now the Pavement Club operates from our partners’ Ripon Street headquarters and the Vijayan Pavamani Centre at Creek Row. Today there are over 350 children receiving a good standard of education from 25 teachers.
The children learn reading, writing and maths, health and hygiene. They enjoy songs and stories, dancing, drama and art. They have a wash and breakfast on arrival, and lunch before they go home.
In the afternoons, the Pavement Club team go back out on the streets, running ‘outreach’ projects in several more of Kolkata’s slum communities. They encourage children and parents to join in simple games and singing, developing relationships with the aim of encouraging families to access education and participate in community development.