Red, blue, green, yellow, orange… Rehan can recognise all these colours. He can even count numbers and recite poetry.
The five-year-old’s skill with colours and numbers is courtesy the Balwadi or education centre he has been attending for the last few months.
The Balwadis in New Kardampuri, a large slum near Yamuna Vihar colony in northeast Delhi, are run by NGO Pratham and funded by HT.
Rehan’s mother Shaheen, 38, is very impressed by her son’s progress. “Earlier he used to spend time watching cartoons on television at a neighbour’s place. But since we started sending him to a Balwadi, he has learnt the alphabet, counting and colours,” she says.
Shaheen is determined to educate Rehan and her other children Shiza, 9, and Samreen, 8. And her husband, Mohammed Shabir, a mason, supports her ‘little project’.
Illiteracy has proved to be a great handicap for Shabir and he doesn’t want his children to lead a similar life.
“We have been unable to get a gas connection because we don’t have a ration card. Getting a ration card has been difficult as people cheat us all the time. If my kids are educated, they won’t have to go through all this,” says Shabir, who earns R3,000 per month.
Shiza and Samreen are already studying at the government school in Durgapuri Chowk. And come July, Rehan will also be joining Class 1 in the same school.
Besides studies and other activities, the children enjoy the midday meals served at the school.
Seeing the progress of their three kids, Shaheen and Shabir regret not educating their elder children — Noori, 20, Guddu, 18, and Nikki, 16.
Noori and Guddu are married and Nikki works as a carpenter. But Shaheen doesn’t want to give up. She wants the three to join night schools so that they become self-reliant.
“We sent them to work at a very young age. But now I want to educate them to make their lives better,” says Shaheen.