Shanty towns, in India and elsewhere, typically have a lack of hygiene and sanitation, a lack of access to public transport systems and other basic public infrastructures. In the project's intervention area, which has a mainly Muslim population, there are five adjacent shanty towns: Bhola Nagar, Khwaja Nagar, Ahmed Nagar, Syed Nagar 1 and 2.
Each of the above shanty towns has around 700 families with over 1,600 children aged from 5 to 16; Most of the women living in the shanty town are illiterate and mothers of large families living below the poverty line; the average family income is around Rs 4,164 per month (= 58 euros).
Crime is soaring as is the use of illegal substances. Illiteracy is widespread among all families and many students drop out before secondary school, because of their poor performance and economic constraints.
In terms of education, a child is not admitted to a public school until the age of 4 or 5. It is well known that the period from 3 to 5 years is crucial for a child's development and that this is the age at which the child develops deeply ingrained habits and learning models. Hence the vital importance of nursery schools.
The children later go to schools available in the shanty towns, which are concrete structures with narrow rooms and a majority of unqualified teachers (with on average 35 pupils per classroom). Teaching methods do not concentrate on the child's overall development and children learn only through memorising; comprehension, creativity, logical skills are ignored.
90% of children are first generation learners and parents are unable to follow the progress of their child and to participate in the child's learning. Also, because of the lack of individual attention they receive at school and the absence of supervision in the home, they are likely to fail in their studies and subsequently drop out in secondary school.
Generally the girls are taken out of school after they reach puberty, in order to help with housework or to be married very young.