DSS has been working at a slum called Valhekarwadi, a settlement of 35-40 hutments comprising of 2 communities: Nandiwaale (Bull bearing nomads who make predictions about weather and harvesting) and the Untwale (Camel bearers). The parents from the Camel bearers community work on garbage trucks each day from 7.00 am to 4.00 pm. There were 4-5 girls in the age group of 10 to 14 years who had to look after the house, cook, clean the house, wash clothes and utensils, look after their younger siblings and also take the sheep for grazing. Our teachers would go to their houses every day to bring them to our class. They could not be enrolled to schools, their parents were totally against it, but we thought that they could at least come to our School on Wheels class so that we could work on developing their interest in learning and eventually we could convince their parents to send them to schools. But the girls would often refuse to come to our class because of all the household chores that needed to be completed. And if they did come to the class, something or the other would happen: like the cattle would enter their huts and eat grains or any food available. The parents would then beat them up. One such time when the girls were in the class, one of their lamb was eaten up by dog. That was it, the girl was beaten up and her coming to the class was stopped.
These girls were smart and fond of learning, it felt wrong to stop teaching them, so our coordinator tried to hire a teacher who could go to the settlement and teach the girls instead of making the girls come to the School on Wheels class. We interviewed a few teachers but all of them refused to go to the settlement since it was unclean. One of our own teachers Ms. Vidya Pawar was ready to go and teach the girls at their door step! We planned her class in such a way that would not interfere with the girls’ work. The teacher would follow the girls and try to teach them, for instance if the girls were cleaning their utensils, she would sit with them and teach them ‘स – साबणाचा’ (s for soap), ‘प - पाण्याचा’, etc. The teacher would also follow them to the river when they went for washing clothes.
One such afternoon when it was extremely hot, the teacher went with the girls to the river and fainted there. The girls felt really bad and thought they should cooperate in some manner since the teacher was taking so many efforts. The girls convinced their parents to let them sit for the class in one of the tents. The girls and the parents found one such tent where classes could be conducted. In the beginning only 3 girls would come to the class but eventually all 4 girls started coming regularly. Now these girls themselves come a little earlier to the class (they don’t need to be called anymore), and they would even clean up the tent and make it ready for starting the class!