Shehzadi doesn’t quite look like a teacher. And that’s not surprising, for she is only 11-year-old. But the resident of a Govindpuri slum in south Delhi has a mission – to help other children learn. Her goal is part of an initiative that was launched in the capital yesterday. Called 300M – or the 300 Million Challenge – it seeks to draw thousands of young boys and girls into education by making learning fun.
“There are many children out there who cannot read or write. The facilities that students get in government schools are not sufficient,” the Class 6 student at the Katha Lab School here said at the launch.
The initiative, started by an alliance of NGOs and corporate houses, aims at helping children read and write – with the help of other children in 17 states. “There are 150 million children who can read, and 150 million who can’t… If children can make the difference, they must start with one another, with their own world,” the NGO and literary house Katha, which leads the campaign, said in a statement.
With the help of colourful books, community libraries, e-books and apps, the mission seeks to mentor children in the 5-10 age group to begin with.
The initiative will focus on strengthening the government school system with “mindful, well-designed books” and learning that will “enhance the joy of reading” for children, said Katha executive director Geeta Dharmarajan.
According to a UNESCO report of September 2016, India will be half a century late in achieving its universal education goals. The country will be able to reach universal primary education only by 2050. “The way the education system works in our country, it is not easy to achieve the target,” said Kiran Babu, director of development support at the NGO Child Rights and You (CRY), one of the campaign partners.
With the collective partnership of other NGOs such as Help Age India, Teach for India and SEWA, the campaign, which is also being supported by several private companies, has unfurled a plan under which groups of children will read together with diffident child readers who are at risk of dropping out of schools.
“We have around 550 libraries in different parts of Delhi where our volunteers teach children. We have chosen 50 slums where we will be starting these libraries soon,” Dharmarajan said. The campaign will soon spread to 17 states across India, she said. “With the help of other NGOs we will connect private schools with the government ones to achieve our goal,” she added.