Education in India

During his recent trip to India, President Obama announced an India-U.S. education summit to be held next year. That was great news, except for one thing: the summit is expected to focus only on higher education. The problem is that there is a pressing need to address elementary and secondary education in India. A true education summit should address the issue as a whole, recognizing that the Indian economy is leaving many of its youth behind.

The world was given a glimpse of the extreme poverty that surrounds the fast-growing city of Mumbai in the award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. The energy, spirit, and surprising potential of those who struggle to rise from poverty was reflected in the story of a heroic young Indian boy from the slums, whose intelligence inspired both awe and disbelief.

"The [slums] are teeming with vigour, industry, energy—with people trying to improve their lives, trying to break that vicious cycle of poverty."

- Vikas Swarup, author of the novel Q&A which became the basis forSlumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire captured the indomitable spirit of India's youth — a spirit that deserves the opportunity to flourish and grow. India's economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, but the country also has an extraordinary number of out-of-school children. At least 35 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 do not attend school. Rather than obtaining the education they need at a formative time of intellectual growth, they work as rag pickers, manual laborers at construction sites, or elsewhere in the informal sector. Many arrive in the urban slums from outlying areas with their families, whose struggle to grasp the promise of India's rising economic wave brings them to the cities. Because their families have no official residence in the city, often iving in little more than a makeshift tent or box, these children are prevented from formally enrolling in a mainstream school.

Planet Aid's partner organization, Humana People to People India, is working to remedy this situation and ensure that the future of India's youth does not perish in the slums. The Academies for Working Children program provides disadvantaged children with the opportunity to attend school in spite of the obstacles. This 2-3 year program enables youth to complete their elementary school education through grade 8, either through classes offered at the Academy itself or by re-entering the mainstream school system.

The staff at AWC work to make the program a success for children by not only offering quality lessons on a flexible schedule, but by also raising awareness and mobilizing parents, local school teachers, and educational authorities to work together for the sake of the children. The staff also organize events in the children's communities, such as clean-up actions, and ensure that every child receives the individual support they need.

Among the more recent AWC centers to open is a the Dell YouthConnect Center in Gurgaon, sponsored by Dell Global Giving. The center is part of Dell "˜s worldwide "YouthConnect" program. The main center in Gurgaon and its three satellite facilities are providing IT training to disadvantaged youth.

For more information on the Dell YouthConnect Center and other AWC programs see the Humana People to People India website.