As Delhi University opens its doors for a fresh batch of students on July 20, among the many, there will be 114 boys and girls who have grown up in the city slums. Having faced great hardships to get there, they will be the first in their families to go to college.
While last year 150 of them had got admission in DU, some even getting seats in popular north campus colleges, this year only 114 made the cut. These students come from 60 different slums of Delhi.
Sandeep, with 94% marks, got the highest score in this group. He lives in a slum in north Delhi’s Peeragarhi and managed to secure a seat in Rajdhani College for B Com(Hons). “He was very disheartened when he could not get a college in north campus. But I asked him not to lose heart,” said Kiran Martin, the founder and director of NGO Asha.
Getting resources to study was not the only challenge for these students. Parents of many students wanted them to start earning and contribute to family income rather than pursue higher studies."I did not want him to go to college. I am the sole breadwinner in the family. I had thought he would learn the trade and bring some money home. But he wants to study. What can we do?" said Ramesh Prasad, who is a tailor and lives in Ambedkar Basti. His son Vivek had secured 84% marks and will now be going to Deshbhandu College to study B Sc (life science).
According to a volunteer at Asha, a voluntary group that worked with the students, convincing parents of girls was most difficult."They wanted them stay at home and learn household chores. Many were apprehensive that their daughters would not get a suitable groom if they studied too much," said a volunteer.
Since 2008, Asha has been helping students from the slums to go to university. In the first batch, 20 students had got admission in DU and the numbers have been increasing since then. Although this year the students qualifying to DU are less than last year, the voluntary group is happy that out of 114 students going to college this year, 75 are girls.
All 114 students studied at government schools and got no extra coaching except English classes, which Asha organised so they didn’t feel out of place at college.
As most of them have never been outside their slums on their own, the volunteers took them to colleges to fill offline forms. The NGO also provided new clothes, shoes and metro travel cards to those who wanted them. "We do not want these children to drop out of colleges so whatever assistance is needed we provide them. We even facilitated education loans for those who wanted to study at private colleges," said Martin.
Suraj who has grown up in a camp at Sector 6 RK Puram
He has scored a 86% and got a seat at Acharya Narendra Dev College. With great interest in studying medicals, he would be studying Bsc Biomedical Sciences. His father sells ice cream near the Vasant Vihar police station and supports the family. His family is excited about going to college and his mother has bought him a new tshirt for the first day.
“I want to become a doctor so I am thinking I will sit for AIPMT next year. I had got 95 in physics, chemistry and 75 in Biology. Had I done my English well and my school given us a teacher my percentage would have gone up,” said Suraj. According to Suraj after his English teacher was transferred, new teacher took a long time to come.
2. Sushma has grown up at Saraswati Camp in RK Puram Sector 3.
She has scored a 67.7% and got a BA programme seat at PGDAV college. With great enthusiasm of studying initially she had to face a lot of protest from her family.
“My brother and then my father had said that they will allow me to study only if I get a girls college. But since my percentage was less I could not get good college and just could qualify for PGDAV. My brother even went to withdraw my admission. Usha maam from Asha came to my house and convinced my family,” said Sushma. In her family she has two brothers and parents. Her father works in a shop at Sarojini Nagar.
3. Ranjit lives in Ambedkar basti and would be studying History (hons) at Ram Lal Anand College
He has scored a 83%. However his first preference was to study political science at Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College. He lives in house number B-606 and shares a single room with six other members of the family, studying under dim light in the room.
“I used to study 7-8 hours in a day and I really like studying. I would have been happier if I had got through ARSD but by the second list the admissions were closed,” said Ranjit.