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INDIA: Free Education for Slum Children

In the sprawling Bangalore slums, most young children spend their day on filthy streets. Access to clean drinking water is scarce and malnutrition rates are extremely high for under-fives. Parents are typically illiterate menial laborers, earning around $130 a month, thus ruling out their ability to pay school fees. As a result, children are illiterate, doomed to a life of deprivation, abuse and crime.

For over a decade, Family Development Services (FDS) has been providing free educational programs for slum children in Bangalore. From its first Building Blocks school with only five children, the program has grown to seven English-medium schools, serving over 700 children in the DJ Halli slums. The six-day-a-week program includes free K4-K5 education, uniforms, lunches, excursions, wellness check-ups, and an after-school program for graduates (6 and 7 year olds).

In order for the children to be accepted into good elementary schools at 1st Grade, they must pass exams in English, and for the average slum child who only speaks their local dialect, this poses a prohibitive barrier to obtaining a good education. Everything is a new experience for these children, who mostly live in homes with no electricity, running water, or toilets. Besides learning English and gaining the ability to read, write and count, they are introduced to technology, plus are taught basic hygiene, life skills, and acceptable social behaviors. Parent-teacher workshops help ensure parents are engaged in their child’s education, and learn to value the impact it will have.

Every year 150-180 children graduate from the Building Blocks schools, but without support many won’t be able to continue in grade school. In 2014 FDS launched its new Project +10 campaign, inviting individuals and organizations to pledge to sponsor a child’s education for at least 10 years, and positively impact a life forever! This initiative has seen tremendous response from all over the world.