Slum girl reaches Delhi University

A girl living at a slum in Bhalswa, a large resettlement colony located on the fringes of the city’s largest garbage dumping ground in north-west Delhi, has become the first in her community to join a graduation programme at Delhi University.

Not surprisingly, only the poorest families in the capital call this area home. Most of the community’s population lives well below the poverty line. Men here work as daily-wage workers at construction sites. Women work alongside, or as domestic help.

The area suffers from problems typical to such places, like lack of electricity, clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. Those not involved in daily wage work are unemployed. There is only one government primary school in the locality. Over the last 30 years, the Bhalswa Dairy area, designed as a resettlement colony, has degenerated into a slum. These are the living conditions of first-generation college-goer Gulfsha. The 19-year-old lives in Jhuggi Jhopri Colony with her parents and five siblings. The entire family of eight lives in a one-room shanty.

It was about a few years ago when NGO Magic Bus expanded its learning programme to this community. Mahadev, a member of the NGO, said, “I saw in Gulfsha what, until then, most people couldn’t. She could make an excellent mentor for the younger children in the community.” Gulfsha’s family faced stern resistance from the community leaders in the neighbourhood for sending a girl for an outdoor programme. “A few years ago, it was not easily acceptable to send our daughter to the field. But our daughter wanted to study, and so we agreed,” said Gulfsha’s mother.

“Magic Bus works in such communities to engage children and provide them basic education so that they can get admitted to regular schools,” said Pratik Kumar, CEO of the NGO. “Our programme uses a combination of play and mentoring skills to connect children to schools and develop healthy habits and soft skills in them.”

Soon, she got enrolled into a school. But her eagerness and energy dropped due to the poor economic condition of the family. “I wanted to study further, but my parents did not see the merit in letting me study beyond Class 12. I shared my problem with Santosh and Mahadev bhaiya, as I knew that they could help me,” said Gulfsha.

The NGO members convinced her parents. So, Gulfsha joined the Connect Programme which has been set up specially to train children in functional English and computer literacy.  Last month, Gulfsha joined a three-year degree programme under DU. In her free time, she gives tuition classes to children in her community.

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