Poonam used to start her day by picking up rags in the wee hours of the morning. Living in Anand Parbat, a nondescript colony in Delhi, Poonam never thought of going to school or getting an education. Her world began and ended with sifting through tonnes of trash.
Her interest in education began when she first started attending a Remedial Education Centre run by World Vision India. Poonam, now 19, recalls how it started for her, “I was first introduced to books when I attended a learning centre run by World Vision India which was very exciting and new for me. Later they helped me enrol in a government school. Initially, it was very challenging to go to school as my parents were not supportive and we were all engaged in rag picking to earn a living. But with constant support and counselling from World Vision India, things started changing and now we are much aware of many things including the importance of education.” Poonam’s family is one among the 3000 families relocated at Anand Parbat transit camp after the state government demolished the slums.
Poonam is now the only one among her sibling of eight who is studying. Her parents have agreed to stop sending her for rag picking as long as she pursues education. She was the first one to be enrolled in a government school near her place but after the demolition, her family had to shift to the transit camp, which posed a challenge for her to continue going to school because of the distance. However, Poonam was determined to continue her education and has managed to complete Std 8. When she was in Std 9, she could not attend regularly due to an illness and the long distance commuting challenge. And unfortunately, she had to drop out of school.
In 2020, she enrolled in Std 10 with the help of a World Vision India volunteer, through the National Institute of Open Schooling. But after the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, she could not continue her study. Finally, in 2021, she was re-admitted in Std 10. This time around, with the constant support of World Vision India’s volunteer, Poonam continued to come regularly to the tuition centre run by the NGO and studied through online.
“My friends and I were regular to the tuition centre and used Gopi ma’am’s mobile to connect with the tuition teacher and study online. That is how we prepared for our Std 10 exams during the COVID lockdown. We did not have mobiles, so it was difficult to study at home,” says Poonam.
Gopi, who is a volunteer with the NGO shared, “We encouraged them to continue their studies and tried our best to support them in every possible ways from filling the exam forms, paying the fees, providing books and even paying for their travel to the exam centres. Sometimes one gives up when you don’t have any support system around you.”
“I used to go for rag picking almost every day and even begging in the street. Now I am happy that I am getting a chance to study and later try to get a decent job. I want to motivate other children also to study and not give up hope,” exclaimed a confident Poonam. “I am also looking forward to do a beautician training with the support of World Vision India and start a small business to earn money. If I earn money through it, I don’t have to go back to rag picking anymore and continue my study as well.”
Poonam is confident that education will change her life for good. Through good education, she believes she can relieve her family from poverty.