Disha classes for educational assistance to unprivileged children

The need to empower women through education is always felt while handling the problems of domestic violence and social oppression faced by individual women. Adult literacy programme, legal literacy camps and other awareness raising activities have therefore become an integral part of the BMF work. Women while participating enthusiastically in these programmes have, however, expressed their concern and anguish over the problems of their children's education and have asked BMF to provide services aimed to address those problems. Keeping in view this deeply felt need particularly of slum-dwelling mothers BMF launched educational assistance programme in the form of Dishaclasses.

A number of surveys have revealed alarming facts about the percentage of children dropping out of school and the low achievement levels of school children, particularly the municipal school children. Factors responsible for this state of affairs are lack of resources of the family, absence of proper atmosphere in the family and community and the shortcomings of the schools as well. Dishaclasses aim to assist children who are likely drop out of primary school due to these factors.

Disha classes are run by trained community workers, preferably young women from similar cultural / economic background as the beneficiary children. Every Dishaclass has 10 children and they are assisted daily for two hours with their studies. BMF volunteer or the Disha teacher herself makes arrangements for the space for the Disha class. She meets school teachers and parents regularly thereby forming a link between family and the school. BMF pays small monthly honorarium to the Disha workers and provides for mats, black-boards, slates and pencils.

BMF has conducted this programme for more than ten years serving more than 3000 children in slums of Thane, Bhiwandi and Kalyan. It has been observed that Dishachildren achieve higher proficiency in the 3 R's (Read, Write & Arithmetic) and do not drop out of school. Seeing the progress of these children a school teacher in Bhiwandi offered BMF space in school premises to conduct Dishaclasses. Needless to say that on-going training of Dishaworkers to improve their teaching skills and inculcate pro-child attitude is very important responsibility of BMF.

The number of Dishaclasses that BMF is able to run every year depends on the availability of funds. At present the approximate expense per child is Rs. 2000/- per year. This programme can be expanded provided BMF gets sponsorship for Disha classes from privileged section of the society.