We did not always believe that education was important. In fact we used to actively avoid sending our children to school. Many members of KKPKP now feel strongly about children’s education. Just the other day Chanda Sonavne came over to the office with sweets. Her daughter had graduated from high school. It was a first in her family. Many of our children persist and display remarkable determination even if they fail at the first attempt. We are as proud of them as we are of our distinction holders.
Not so long ago, things were very different.
We are a community of illiterate waste pickers or manual labourers. Our kind of work does not require a university degree! In the old days we were afraid that our sons would remain jobless after all the effort and expense needed for their education. There were other issues with our daughters. Niggling doubts that they would become too smart for their own good. Where would we find educated husbands for them in our community? So parents took their children to work. Not all of us felt the same way. Ranubai was one of them. SNDT started non-formal education classes in 1991. Children would learn something for a couple of hours each day and they had fun.
Yes, we have come a long way since 1991. But there is a long way road ahead. We are now encouraging our children to look beyond routine career options. We are illiterate and have no clue about the possibilities that can be opened up for our children, so we look to people who know about these things for help. Our children need guidance. They need mentoring. Our children need to be good human beings first. They also have to be able to look up to newer opportunities without denying their roots.
While tracking our children we found that 75% of them did not continue into college after passing out from - school.. The few who did could not afford to do expensive courses. Some of our children took up full time jobs and attended college. We started some educational schemes and supplementary activities for children in high school and college. The impact of the schemes has been dramatic as the above table shows.
Who would ever have imagined that Sharda Gajre’s son, Abhishek would get admission into engineering college? He did and it was a proud moment for all of us! Today there is a lot to celebrate. In 2009, 90 of our children passed the SSC exam while 65 passed the HSC and an increasing number are going on to graduation.
We have tracked our children’s education since 2007. We created a computerised database of our children. It is updated annually.