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Delhi slum kids walk the corridors of university

Last updated: 17 November, 2010
Anil Sinha, New Delhi, Nov 17, DH News Service: 22:35 IST

Crossing the barrier

'I have got a small space on the ground, I have to conquer the sky,' says Mahesh, a dark and stout 20-year-old from a Delhi slum who has just got an entry into the prestigious Delhi College of Engineering.

Mahesh, a slum dweller of Ambedkar Basti in South Delhi, attributes his success to “Asha,” an NGO which is celebrating Learning 2010 for the feat its boys have achieved.
The NGO works in Delhi slums to facilitate education. It not only helped Mahesh to attend a school but also supported him in nourishing a dream of becoming an engineer by sending him to a prestigious coaching class.

However, Mahesh’s is only one of many success stories witnessed by Delhi slums, thanks to this NGO. This year only, “Asha” has sent 170 students to Delhi University, many of whom are enrolled in professional courses like engineering, nursing, management, accountancy, and hotel management.

The NGO has up till now sent more than 400 students to the university education from these slums deprived of most of the basic amenities like housing, water, electricity and roads. Food insecurity combined with recurrent health problems make life all the more miserable for those who live in these slums.

“All of the students who have crossed the barrier erected by poverty and deprivation are first generation learner,” proudly say an “Asha” activist.

Girls like Durga and Usha of Ekta Vihar explain how they had to face extra hardships for belonging to a weaker sex. No one in the area could previously think of going even to a school, but now they are studying in prestigious colleges.

Kiran Martin, a paediatrician by profession and who started the NGO more than a decade ago, said: “The idea of launching an NGO came to me during my fight against a cholera epidemic in these slums. I felt people here require more than a medical assistance.”
The NGO has created a big network which helps its activities — ranging from women empowerment, financial inclusion, education to environmental improvement — in slums. The network includes government departments, banks, high commissions, charitable institutions and individual donors. Its benefactors include Union home minister P Chidambaram. Chidambaram induced Punjab National Bank to help the NGO during when he was the finance minister.

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