Access to education has always been a challenge for under-privileged children. However, due to the pandemic, as livelihoods were affected and many families were further pushed into poverty, children from lower-income groups suffered the most. Only about 28% children living in rural areas and slums had access to digital learning. Education came to a halt for lakhs of children, who had already been struggling in the pre-pandemic world.
Smile Foundation, through its ‘Shiksha Na Ruke’ initiative, has been helping children from difficult circumstances get back to school and restart their lives with hope. At present, we are directly providing education to over 100,000 children in 23 states of India.
Despite all the odds, these young champions have not given up and continue to dream and work hard. With your support, we can fuel their dreams with accessible and quality education. Join hands with us to ensure a happy and safe childhood for all!
"My parents were never able to give me a hunger-free day. I couldn’t go to school because of discrimination. Nobody in my family, including my parents or my husband, stepped in a school.
I do not want my daughter's life to be as miserable as mine! So no matter how hard we struggle, I will never let my daughter stop her study. Despite of hundred odds, I have promised her to never give up!"
“When a parent passes away, life changes. Two years ago, I lost my mother. Last year, I lost my father in a road accident. I felt a huge empty space in my heart. It’s painful and uncomfortable. Since then, I have started to question life and our purpose here. Being with parents is a happy place that I can still see so clearly when I close my eyes. There was always so much laughter and love that filled our home every time we were together.
I sometimes envy other people who have parents—and when they complain about something their mom or dad did, I choke down my tears in silence. I keep thinking, if only I could have one last moment. I think about the things I would have said, and seek forgiveness for the things I failed to do for them.
In witnessing my parents die before turning 50, suddenly life felt very short, and each moment became incredibly important. It is heartbreaking – not having them in a world where I am growing, learning, and accomplishing little goals. I love them and miss them. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
“Only a labourer like me will understand how much hard work it takes to survive. If I do not put my sweat and blood in the work I do, my child will starve. I earn very little daily wages, so every single rupee is valuable. It doesn’t matter if our roof is broken, or we sleep on the cold mud-floor in winters. Nothing matters more than food for my child. When I feed my child I become the happiest person in this world. I feel no more pain when my daughter holds me and smiles. Who can be happier than me?”
“I feel my life is little different. Most of the time, I keep getting punishments from my step-mother for no reasons. Sometimes in cold nights, she makes me stand outside our home. I keep crying but the door remains closed, just like her heart. My father stays out-of-town for work. I feel deprived of love – of a mother and also of a father. I feel good when father comes home but he spends all his time with my step-brothers. Last time when he came home, he brought gifts for everybody. He said he had less money, so he couldn’t get anything for me this time. It has been years, I received a new dress or anything new. But I have accepted and I never question my father. You can’t fight to get love; it has to come on its own.”
“I am a farmer who does daily labour in somebody else’s land. I get around 200-250 rupees in a day. I have never been to a school, neither did my parents. Even before I got married, I had this in mind that I will educate my children. I never wanted anyone to look down upon my children like how most people do to us. I am grateful to the people who are educating my child for free. See the uniform she is wearing. Nothing makes me more proud than seeing him studying like big people’s children. I want my daughter to achieve everything which I never achieved in life.”
“We live in poverty. Since birth, my son has faced hardships, hunger and scarcity of necessities on a daily basis. My husband and I work on daily wages to survive. Our only son Niraj inspires us – to never give up, to live and to smile. He is now in class 5, confident and happy. Nothing brings more joy to my heart than seeing him getting ready and going to school every morning. I am sure that education will transform his life. And he will transform ours."
"Poverty is terrible. After my husband’s death, life took a devastating turn. The day I did not get any work, my children did not have anything to eat. When I suffered from measles and lost my eye, I couldn’t afford even a single dose of medicine for myself. I could not work for a few days during that period and I remember how all of my children starved. When you are hungry, everything is delicious. My children survived eating expired bread offered to us by a local shopkeeper. For poor people, even one-time food is a lucky thing.
I thought I was blessed to see my two sons grow, get married and have children. But once again, sorrow broke me. The death of my sons and their wives took away all my hopes and happiness. Once again, destiny brought me to the same place I was when my husband died. Today, if I don’t get any work, my grand-daughter does not get anything to eat. This time, I am older, weaker and blind by one eye. But I have started working again to build a world where there is no hunger or fever for my grand-child."
"My mother wanted to become a teacher but because of her family's poor financial status, she never got an opportunity. In fact, she has never stepped in a school in her entire life. Today, despite of all the challenges we are surrounded with, she ensures that we never give up on our education.
My parents work on fields, construction sites, shops - wherever they get an opportunity. My mother works as a house help to make our ends meet. I haven't told her yet but I want to live her dream. I want to become a teacher. Later in life I want to open a school where mothers like mine can get to study.”
The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic disrupted the education sector on an unprecedented scale as millions of kids found themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide.
The education system across primary, secondary, and higher learning has been disrupted, leaving students with major learning gaps and many without access to learning tools.
When schools moved online amid the pandemic, many civil society groups and individuals stepped in to help underprivileged children continue their studies, by donating a smartphone or a tablet.
Teachers in rural and urban areas had to come up with innovative methods to ensure students did not miss out on an education during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic had badly battered and bruised the education system and exposed the digital divide in India. However, experts say that there is still a ray of hope to bring things back on track with the help of civil society organisation.
Santanu Mishra (Co-Founder and Trustee, Smile Foundation) discusses how Covid-related restrictions on movement and social interactions, and complete dependence on adults to create a conducive home environment, have had an impact on the mental health of children.
International Women’s Day is considered a movement to bring equality and we celebrate this day for its righteous cause. Started in 1911, its roots lie in the labour movement. The cause for which women fought against poor working conditions has since evolved drastically.
Building an effective education system for a world after Covid-19 needs to include a collaborative stakeholder engagement and customized solution for all target groups.
The study 'Scenario amidst COVID 19 - Onground Situations and Possible Solutions' was conducted by child rights NGO Smile Foundation with an aim of analysing the access to technology.
The study ‘Scenario amidst COVID 19 – Onground Situations and Possible Solutions’ was conducted by child rights NGO Smile Foundation with an aim of analysing the access to technology.