Volunteering In Jaipur Schools

Background: Jaipur and its slums

Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan. As of 2011, the city had a population of 3.1 million whilst its 2021 population is estimated at 4.0 million. Jaipur is also known as the Pink City, due to the dominant colour scheme of its buildings. There are over 250 slum areas in Jaipur accounting for roughly a quarter of the city’s inhabitants.

These slums have little or no running water and very limited if any sanitation facilities; water has to be brought in my tanker and bathing and washing is often in the open air at communal taps.

There is little money for food, medicine and other necessities. Nonetheless the inhabitants are keen for their children to obtain an education and generally make sure their children turn up to school clean and neatly dressed. Discipline is not an issue as young children in the slums are keen to learn.

In balwadis (pre-primary/kindergarten schools) they are taught in Hindi. However, we believe that mastering the English language, which is the language of tourism and commerce in Jaipur, will help them get a job or further education. It may enable them to move out of the cycle of deprivation which they suffer having to live in very impoverished conditions.

Parva School and the Zindagi Foundation School were both founded by Shahadat Ali in 2010 and 2020 respectively.

Parva means fulfilment; Zindagi means life.. Both schools strive to help the children develop their self-confidence and self-esteem so as to empower them now and in the future.

Parva serves a slum of approx 400 inhabitants atop a municipal rubbish tip on the edge of the city and backing onto a nature reserve.

Shahadat started at a time when the children in the slum survived by begging and rummaging through rubbish to find things to sell. He started by sitting under a tree with a handful of children and their mothers, teaching them how to read and write and do basic maths.

The initiative was given a tremendous boost with the arrival of Lizzie Godfrey, a former charity volunteer and professional card player. She set up a small cottage industry for the mothers making gift bags and cards which are sold in the UK and France. This gives them an income and frees up the children who can now go to school rather than work in the dump. Lizzie also started fundraising in the UK, providing the means to employ two teachers, bring in computers, basic healthcare and scholarships for some of the children with particular talents. The community was so encouraged by all this that they rallied to raise the money themselves to build a small brick building to house the school.

For the last decade Shahadat has devoted his life to educating these children for free.

Shahadat’s second school - Zindagi Foundation - is located in Harmada to the North East of Jaipur and approximately 6 kilometres from Parva.

Whereas Parva owns a brick built structure with plastered walls inside, mains electricity and a smooth concrete floor, Zindagi has to make do with a room measuring 12 x 12 feet rented for 2 hours a day.

before relocating to an open space between buildings two streets away where lessons
for a new group of pupils continue (for another 2 hours). 

Parva is currently home to 20 students; Zindagi has 60 with more keen to be admitted.

In September 2022, Do SlumThing started paying modest salaries to Shahadat and up to 5 part-time teaching assistants who divide their time between Parva, Zindagi and a community of beggars who live beneath a motorway flyover in the city centre. We refer to the latter as “Under the Bridge” where we provide basic pastoral care for 30-40 children but little in the way of formal teaching.

At Zindagi we also provide school equipment and organise periodic medical examinations for the whole community.

We also sponsor a food distribution program for 120 or more children in all three locations which focussed on the daily provision of fruit and protein.

Any child who graduates from with Parva or Zindagi and wishes to continue their studies elsewhere is eligible for one of our bursaries to cover the cost of private tuition, books and uniform.