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The idea of Sahyog, a community-based model of education, germinated when two of the founding members, Neha Madhiwalla and Padma Deosthali, were doing research among the women in slum pockets of Jari Mari, Andheri-Kurla.
A large number of the girls had dropped out of elementary education because of poverty, inadequate number of secondary schools in the neighbourhood, and social strictures applied to adolescent girls. A population even more vulnerable than adolescent girls were children with disabilities for whom there were no educational resources; their vulnerability further compounded by their parents’ ignorance about such resources or inability to access them. This led to the decision to create community-based alternatives for the education of girl dropouts and out-of-school children with disabilities.
What started on June 5, 2000, in Jari Mari, as a daily four-hour class with 20 out-of-school adolescent girls and one teacher, grew into Sahyog School—a non-formal school offering elementary and secondary education through the National Institute of Open Schooling as well as Sahyog Jhula, a life skills programme. The second Sahyog School was set up in 2002, almost 20 kilometres away from Jari Mari, in a slum rehabilitation project at Dindoshi, Goregaon East to where several of the school girls had been relocated. In the same year, Sahyog Sangharsh, a centre for the education and rehabilitation of children with disabilities was started in the Jari Mari community. By 2010, more than 800 girls had passed through the portals of Sahyog School and 100 children through Sahyog Sangharsh.
Many girls appeared for the Class 10 exam due to the dedication of their teachers, the perseverance of their families, and their own conviction. Many did not due to early marriages, family circumstances, and change in residence. But going to and through a Sahyog School, taught them to walk with their heads held high and look people straight in the eye.
With the girls in both communities successfully overcoming external and internal barriers to access mainstream educational institutions, we were confronted with a heartening reality that challenged our core work of educating adolescent girl dropouts. It was time to move beyond the Sahyog Schools. Bestowed with and bolstered by the EdelGive Social Innovation Honour in 2010, we were ready to build anew on the strong foundation established by the community-based model of education. Sahyog Umang, Sahyog Roshan and Sahyog Sankalp are testimony to that.