Prior Research: Before initiating our programme, we did a “Socio-Economic analysis of Waste Pickersworking in Jalgaon city”. The intention was to understand socio-economic condition as well as problems faced by these people while doing their work. To get a better understanding of the problem, we had divided the target into three groups i.e. children ageing below 14 years, youth of ageing between 15 to 30 years and elder people ageing above 30 years and information like their name,address, native place, family background, educational status, addictions, money they spend on such addictions, health problems, their perspective of looking towards society was collected through in-depth interviews of around 400 waste pickers.
Problem Identification: Results of this survey were rather deplorable. Out of these 400 waste pickers, around 124 were children ageing between 5 and 14. More than 90% of these children were either drop-outs or they were never enrolled in any school. At the same time, more than 60% children accepted that they eat Tobacco or Gutkha. As these children spend most of their time in unhygienic environment, health issues such as cuts on hands and legs, animal biting and skin diseases were very common. At the end of our survey, we conducted several meetings with the children and their parents in Tambapura ('the waste pickers’ colony in Jalgaon). It took lot of time & efforts for us to gain their confidence.
Idea: The idea is to provide basic formal & informal education and skills to child waste pickers as well as out-of-school children and make them capable of joining mainstream schools to cope with the learning process in the school. It is achieved through Informal Learning Center which will act as a bridge between the children who had never went to school or those who dropped out of schools and the mainstream schools. Activities and programmes are designed carefully to make the expected impact.
Objectives: Through this endeavor, child waste pickers and the children working in this unorganized sector will be benefitted in following ways: a) These children will be able to read, write and speak Marathi fluently with confidence and they will understand basic Hindi and English and will be able to solve basic mathematics. b) They will enroll and sustain in main stream schools. c) They will quit their waste picking profession. d) They will adopt and create more clean and hygienic environment around them e) They will understand the perils of addiction and leave/break the bad habits Current Status: The project was started on 2nd January 2014 in Tambapura area of Jalgaon. As of today, 35 children between age 6and 16 attend the center regularly. These are either waste pickers or the children whose parents work as waste pickers or in unorganized sector. Earlier some of these children used to attend day schools while others are either school dropouts or never went to a school. However the scholastic level of children going to school and those who never went to school was not any different. Most of them did not know how to read or write and those who did, had very poor handwriting and much poorer grammatical constructs. Currently, 27 out of 35 children are going to main schools regularly. We have succeeded in sustaining all of them in the schools. Their scholastic level has also increased.This year we enrolled 16 children into mainstream school. All of them used to work as waste-pickers. Now as they all have started going into the schools, they have left waste picking profession. We are coordinating with school teacher and parents to make sure that transition of these children from out-of-school to going into school will be easy. When we started the learning center only 7 children used to go to school but their scholastic levels were not any different from out-of-school children. We succeeded in sustaining these children into school and now they are performing very well. Parents’of these children are happy as their children are now spending time in reading books and trying to inculcate clean and hygienic environment. We have also established a books library which is completely handled by our students. One key of our center is with the students, so that they can study or read books any time. We are also planning to initiate a toys library at the same place.