At a time when parents register their children with playschools as soon as they are born and Internal Baccalaureate schools are mushrooming in the city, there is still a section of children, for whom getting a basic education is no easy feat — like the ones in Mulund’s Durga wadi slum, located in a garbage dump.
Kavita Sopane, 21, is trying to make it less hard for such children. A former rag-picker herself, who had to give up her education after her mother died, she runs a pre-school for children between three and six years, to prime them to go to school.
A few children already enrolled in school or who have dropped out also come.
She pushes the “lazy ones” to come to school regularly, helps those old enough to get admission to full-blown school and re-admit those who have been expelled due to a prolonged absence.
Renuka Jhadav (9) is one of them. “She had gone to her native place in Karnataka for a few months so the school refused to take her. Her parents were not bothered either so I went with her and spoke to the principal,” said Sopane.
Renuka, who hopes to become a doctor, couldn’t be happier. “I still come to the playgroup for some time before going to school so I get to learn more,” she said.
The slum-dwellers are happy that their children are studying, and support Sopane.
“Our lives are gone, but at least the children will have a better future,” said Sheetal Vaghe (35), whose youngest child attends Sopane’s playgroup while the two older ones go to the civic school.
Sopane gives the children half a cup of milk or something to eat — the families chip in for the cost when they can — to entice them to attend.
But despite her and Vaghe’s best efforts about four to five adolescent boys whose mother or father has expired don’t go to the playgroup or the civic school.
“We enrolled them in school but they don’t attend. They are happy just collecting garbage for a living and playing all day,” said Vaghe.
Although the playgroup is Sopane’s own initiative, non-governmental organisation SALAH, which is attached to CRY (Child Relief and You) provides financial support and guidance to her whenever required.