Fourteen years ago, giving birth to her younger sister at home, Nisha Kumari’s mother died due to heavy blood loss. That burdened Nisha being the caretaker of her newborn sister. She was just 11 years old at that time.
Adding more misery to her life, two years later, her father died of jaundice leaving behind Nisha with her three brothers and two sisters. To look after their siblings, Nisha and the brother next to her, Sanjay was left with no other option than to stop going to school.
Nisha read till the 5th standard while Sanjay managed to read till the 7th standard. He now works as a construction labourer.
Alike Nisha and Sanjay, many here in Babubasti have to face a similar fate.
Babubasti, situated at Narengi in Assam's Guwahati, emerged as a slum some 40 years ago. Here at a stretch of 2 km, more than a hundred of families migrated from various disaster-prone and under-developed parts of Assam and Bihar are staying along the two sides of a railway line in dilapidated huts.
The slum lacks basic facilities of clean drinking water, sanitation, and drainage system among others. Families here in Babubasti, survive mainly on a daily wage, while the men are engaged in a variety of occupations such as driver, mason, street vendors etc., and the women work as house helpers in the neighbouring areas.
Subodh Ray, 29, who now works as a milkman had to stop attending school when he was just a 15-year-old boy. Due to poor economic conditions his parents couldn’t afford his studies.
Subodh said, “My father worked as a labourer. With a family of four members to feed, he couldn’t afford to send me to school. So I had to drop out of school in 9th standard. My brother also couldn’t read beyond 9th standard.”
In a survey carried out on 73 students in the slum, 35 had to leave school in different stages due to various problems of their families. That number amounts to 44 percent of the total population take into consideration. Of that 44 percent, the drop-out rate at elementary level (class I to class VIII) stands at 51.42 percent, while other 48.57 percent drops out at secondary level.
Among the boys out of 39, 21 that is 53.84 percent dropped out of school at different levels. These dropped out students later get engage as daily wagers.
In case of the girls 12 out of 34 that is 35.29 percent dropped out of school.
The reason behind this trend of dropping out can be attributed to marginal income of the people living here in the slum. Though in government run schools, books and uniforms are provided to the students nowadays, the cost of other accessories obstruct the students from attending school.
Overcoming various odds, students here could hardly manage to secure marks that allow them to get seats in the government colleges in the city. For that many of them have to quit study after they pass the matriculation. The limited number of seats in these colleges is also a matter of serious concern.
Despite the hindrances the students are not short of dreams. Salma Yasmin, who is currently reading in Kanya Mahavidyalaya, Narengi wants to be a lawyer so that she can know the law and work for the betterment of people like her who are deprived of basic facilities.
As per a report on Unified District Information System For Education plus published by Ministry of Education, Govt. of India for the year 2020-21, with 31 percent Assam tops in school dropout percentage among the 28 states and 8 union territories in the country.
Bhaskar Kalita, a volunteer of YUVA (Youths Union for Voluntary Action) who is working in the slum for the last 2 years said, “Because of forced migration, slums are rapidly increasing in the city. Among various problems of the slums, the plight of the students is a matter of serious concern. We appeal to all the authorities concerned to improve the conditions and provide a healthy environment to the slum dwellers.”