When Sakina Abdul Gaffar Shaikh was in 9th standard, she dropped out of school. Her father was suffering from severe osteoporosis, and with little money to survive as it was, every penny had to be diverted to help him with his treatment.
This is a common story for so many youth in Shivaji Nagar who are forced out of school due to a lack of money, or even worse, under pressure from families to undergo child marriage.
As per Apnalaya’s 2017 survey report that studied 6627 households in the slums of M East Ward, 29% children in the Right to Education age group (6-14 years), are out of school. The issue of underage marriage is also at large with 38.3% girls and 48% boys getting married before the legal age.
However, another reason why the children decide to dropout of study, is because there are no government-run secondary schools in Shivaji Nagar. Families cannot afford private schooling, and even if the children want to attend the government schools outside Shivaji Nagar, parents cannot afford the daily travel cost or are not comfortable with their children (especially daughters) travelling outside the community.
These issues lead to limited schooling, low aspirations and low skill sets which hampers their ability to access sustainable livelihoods.
Fortunately for Sakina, because she had earlier been part of the Khula Aasmaan programme, Apnalaya staff identified her and convinced her to be a School Saheli mentor. While mentoring she understood the importance of education and how it will impact her future. She then enrolled herself in school again and started paying her own fees with the stipend amount.
“Seeing my mentors in Khula Aasmaan (now School Saheli colleagues) and how well they were doing in their studies gave me the push to re-join school again,” said Sakina who is currently studying in 10th standard through an open school.
“After being associated with Apnalaya, my confidence has increased. I’m not meek anymore,” she said. “The support that the other mentors have given me is something I have never experienced before,“ she added.
Compared to the school dropout rate of Shivaji Nagar, the percentage is considerably low among the youth Apnalaya works with; among the girls we work with, the rate is 1.12% whereas for the boys it is 1.41%. Apnalaya not only focuses on giving educational fellowships but also focuses on providing life skills to the adolescents and youth like Sakina.