6.4 million children in India are lacking education opportunities. The majority of these children live below the poverty line, and many of the children reside in urban slum areas. This thesis sets out to explore why deprived urban children are excluded from school. It further looks at inclusive strategies for providing education.
The thesis is mainly based on research conducted in Kolkata, India. The study was conducted based on the program of CINI-Asha, a local NGO. CINI-Asha believes that all children belong in formal school. The program consist of preperatory education centres in the local slums, mainstreaming into formal school and support once the child is enrolled.The main questions will be discussed in relation to this program.
The reasons for why children were excluded from school were demonstrated to be very complex. There is a clear divide in the opinions of the different stakeholders, which has clear implications for the strategies for inclusion.
Community outreach and empowerment of parents and children are important aspects in the strategy for inclusion, and is discussed thoroughly. It was clearly demonstrated that community outreach had a positive effect on the children’s participation in education, both in the CINI-Asha program and later in formal school. However, when looking at empowerment, one question was whether or not the strategy was in fact empowering mothers and children as the program sets out to do. Or if they were simply recipients of convenient services. It is also discussed if parents and children are given a real choice and real opportunity to empowerment, or if this is controlled by the external stakeholders. Empowerment is imperative for a child to complete his or her education. This is discussed in a context of Amartaya Sen’s theories on freedoms and empowerment, and Paolo Freire’s theories on critical consciousness and empowerment.
The thesis discusses and demonstrates the complexities between education, poverty, empowerment, lack of awareness of education, illiteracy among parents, lack of knowledge of the policy makers, lack of interest in school among children, migration, low quality schools, low quality teachers, lack of school buildings, the implications of socio-economic background and the involvement of all stakeholders.