The Institute of Social Work (ISW) is an NGO based in Kolkata, West Bengal, which works to provide better opportunities to underprivileged women and children. ISW started with a group of young and enthusiastic social workers in 1978 who wanted to work for the socio-economic development of the underprivileged sections of the society, focusing especially on the women in these communities. The Institute operates a number of centers imparting formal and non-formal education to children and vocational training to women. Two of these centers are located in Khidderpore and Barasat. Asha-Stanford partially supports the center at Khidderpore, and Asha-San Francisco supports the other center.
The school at Khidderpore is in the heart of the slums in Kolkata's dock area. It has three sections: a tailoring school for girls, a coaching center for girls in middle and high school, and a non-formal education center for school dropouts. It also provides vocational training in food processing and baking to adolescent girls.
Of the numerous challenges faced by families in slums and low-income communities, education and rehabilitation of disabled children is perhaps the most invisible and steeped in stigma. In December 2002, a survey was undertaken to identify children and adolescents with disabilities in the Jari.
The Barasat center has formal classes from nursery to class VIII. The school currently has nearly four hundred children in classes from nursery to eighth grade and follows the syllabus prescribed by the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education though not formally affiliated with the Board.
ISW works actively in the field of women's rights which complements its work in education. ISW's major asset is its dedicated teaching staff: four at Khidderpore and fourteen at Barasat. Teachers visit homes in the area to meet with parents and discuss the importance of education. Their initiative and persuasion has helped bring in children into the education system who otherwise might not have had access to even basic education.
According to ISW's research, the parents of the children served by these projects work in various occupations that provide meagre incomes, such as vegetable vending, casual labor and rickshaw pulling. Of the children who attend these schools, more than half are girls. Many students who attend ISW schools receive little academic help at home and find it difficult to continue their education in other schools. Through its dedicated and highly involved teachers ISW provides an environment for drop-outs from other schools to remain in the educational system, and encourages them to continue their education. ISW keeps students engaged through extra curricular activities like dancing, singing, art, craft, and sports.
The support that ISW provides these children may often be the key enabling factor keeping them in school. Help us give these children a hand out of the slums.