India's Shadow Education Centre #GivingTuesday

 Why is Project Why even necessary?

Sadly, this is a question we often get. There are many reasons, but the main reason is to provide shadow education to underprivileged children, an education that has become sine-qua-non to success in India.

Shadow education is a term coined to encompass all private coaching and tuition outside of but parallel to the mainstream education. The statistics are mind-boggling: over 71 million students take some form of outside coaching in India today, which comes at a staggering cost. The main reason given during a survey was to ‘augment basic education.’ Both rich and poor parents estimated that education given in school was not adequate. Supplementary education has become a requirement.

Parents from poorer homes are aware of the poor quality of education imparted by government schools with overcrowded classes and few resources. But not all are able to pay for supplementary education, which comes at a steep price. Very often boys are sent to private tuitions and girls are not. Education for girls is not considered important.

Project Why provides this supplementary education for free and, yes, this is extremely relevant and needed for slum communities. Children come to Project Why outside school hours and teachers ensure that they are taught everything that needs to be learnt. At Project Why, children are taught in small groups and the teachers make sure they understand and comprehend what they are learning. Project Why teachers are patient, caring and students feel confident and loved.

Interventions like Project Why are crucial. This is demonstrated by cases like a young class V student who could barely read or write when she came to us. This same girl topped her class VII.

In India education is marks-oriented and thus performing well makes all the difference in getting access to higher education.  Private institutions of higher learning have proliferated in recent years but these come at a high cost and are not an option for slum children. Admission to state-run colleges is based on marks. The option available to underprivileged students if they do not meet the required cut offs are evening colleges or distance learning institutes. Not the ideal.

We need education reform that would introduce vocational skills in high school that would make entry into the job market easier. Till then all children, rich and poor, have to compete on a level playing field to get into University. The problem is, this level field doesn’t extend to the quality of primary and secondary education. Project Why allows our students to have a chance at succeeding.

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