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The Classrooms Hidden in Mumbai’s Seams — Bright — Medium
"Educators are bringing the classroom to the thousands of Mumbai’s children out of school — in school buses, treehouses, and beyond."



"Educating children in a city of more than 18 million people — of which at least 1.7 million are children under 6 years old, according to the national census — is a daunting task. Mumbai, India’s financial hub, is a dense metropolis of almost inconceivable disparity, where multi-story homes of business tycoons cast shadows over tiny fishermen communities and crowded informal settlements stretching to absorb thousands of new migrants every week. About 40 percent of the city’s families live in slums, defined as compact, congested areas with poor hygiene and infrastructure.

Mumbai’s education system has fallen gravely short of absorbing its children. Only 400,000 children were enrolled in municipal schools in 2014, according to a report by Praja, a non-partisan research and advocacy organization. That number actually dropped 11 percent since 2009, despite increased government spending on education.

That leaves more than half of the children in Mumbai either out of school or learning in private institutions. At least 37,000 kids in Mumbai live on the streets and work with their parents to earn a few cents a day, according to advocacy organization Action Aid.

In response, community members, activists, and educators have carved out classrooms between the hidden folds and seams of the city. They offer safe and regular learning spaces to students who can easily fall throughout the gaps. Some you have to literally climb into to access, while others are built on wheels. For thousands of students across Mumbai, these classrooms have become tiny oases, a place to call their own for a few hours every day.

Manasvi Khasle walked up and down a narrow aisle. She called out even numbers and waited for her class to say the next one. The 22-year-old teacher knows how to command the attention of the 20 students sitting in neat rows in her unusual classroom: a yellow school bus parked near a smoky crossroad of factories and railway tracks in south Mumbai.

“In the beginning I had to go to their homes and call them to class,” she said. “Now they see the bus pull up and just come.”

Khasle has been teaching for eight years with Door Step, an organization founded in 1988 that runs classes for more than 10,000 students, in school buses and tiny community centers. The buses can only hold 20 students, most of them between six and twelve years old, without much space to wiggle around or store books. But they have unique benefits — like their ability to reach many of Mumbai’s poorest migrants who live on illegal plots of land where schools can’t be built.

The students who come to Door Step are as mobile as their classrooms. Many of them work during the evenings or weekend, walking miles down busy roads to peddle toys or newspapers. Most are the first in their families to receive any type of education.

“I like coming here because we sing songs, we study things,” said Gopal, an 11-year-old who attends class in one of the buses parked close to his home in the Byculla neighborhood. His family migrated to Mumbai from rural Maharashtra. He has yet to be enrolled in a local school full time. “On weekends I walk to the temple and sell lemons. Here I can play.”

***

To get to one learning center at the southern end of Mumbai, you have to walk through a maze of narrow pathways filled with open drains, women scrubbing laundry, and jumbled electrical wires that hang between buildings like knotted shoelaces. Then you climb two ladders — one wooden and painted blue, the other metal — to find a small entryway in the ceiling, which leads to an open platform surrounded by railings and trees.

This is the journey that Kirthna Rai, a volunteer teacher, and her 18 students — mostly slight, lanky teenagers — make five days a week to learn spoken English, math, and general knowledge. It is also the uppermost floor of the home of one student, Harsha Vade. Rai’s organization, a small non-profit called Down to Earth, rents the rooftop by the hour.

“We like it that the kids are so close by,” said Arti Bharat Vade, Harsha’s mother, as she filled buckets of water from a communal pipe. “We want them to do well and make a name for themselves.”

Vade said the center has made a powerful impact on her daughter, who had recently scored strong grades on her tenth grade exams — the make-or-break year in the Indian school system — making her eligible to go to a mainstream college. Harsha’s English is fluid and confident, and Rai has guided her through tough exams and career decisions.

When asked if it was hard to concentrate in this treehouse-like classroom during Mumbai’s scorching summer or heavy monsoon season, the students looked around quizzically before Rai, their teacher, eventually spoke up: “This is just like their homes, it’s what they’re used to.”

***

Some miles north of the Down to Earth Center, a different tiny classroom was buzzing. The Dharavi Art Room was started by educator Himanshu S. in a particularly entrepreneurial neighborhood called Dharavi. The area is home to over 600,000 people — about the same as Baltimore — packed into less than one square mile.

Dharavi Art Room is not yet a registered non-profit, but has been operating with community support and donations from friends to teach painting, drawing and other mediums of expression to children in the area. On one sunny summer Sunday, there were trays of paint and paper strewn along the floor. Fifteen students intently focused on depicting their family, or copying a painting from the famed Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.

“It used to be hard for me to paint because I didn’t know how, but now it’s not so hard,” said 12-year-old Lovesh Chilveri, a student at the center, as he carefully shaded a window he was drawing.

Himanshu said the art room is particularly important in Dharavi, where young people are caught in the aggressive atmosphere that can pervade the neighborhood. Sitting on the floor near a student, a book of small paintings by his side, he said the room gives them a relaxed and free space they might not otherwise access.

“Some kids just like to come sit here,” he said. “This is a space where they can be themselves.”

***

"For many of the educators in these informal classrooms, creating a comfortable place is as important as what they teach. Many low-income children in Mumbai deal with very harsh realities of life — going to bed hungry, falling sick from the rain, helping their parents make ends meet — and a classroom can become like a second home.

“Education has to be holistic approach,” said Vrushali Naik, a program coordinator with Mumbai Mobile Creches, a non-profit organization that has reached more than 100,000 children by building temporary education and daycare centers near the construction sites where migrant laborers live.

One center in eastern Mumbai is housed in the same corrugated metal sheds where the migrant families live in neat, Spartan rows. There are three rooms for the children — ranging from infants to teenagers — and educators who teach, play, and help distribute meals throughout the day.

Food is an important part of many of these classrooms. The Action Aid study found that 25 percent of the children in poor Mumbai neighborhoods skipped meals due to lack of money.

At Mumbai Mobile Creches the children eat eggs, lentils and milk, and at Angel Xpress the students line up for packages of sandwiches and snacks at the end of their tutoring sessions.

“We have to look at the bigger picture — do children feel safe, are they understood? Are their stomachs full?” said Reshma Agarwal, an education specialist with UNICEF. “I don’t think these programs have come because of a shortage of classrooms in Mumbai — these programs have come in for specific needs.”

Even so, Agarwal said, the classrooms cannot replace the school system in the city, however weak it may. Most programs agree. Door Step buses, for example, drive kids to municipality schools after they’re admitted. And teachers like Rai help students tackle the exams and papers to get through the critical years of school.

For now, though, the teachers continue to climb ladders, board school buses, and cut through the howling winds of the Mumbai monsoon. And thousands of students willingly follow.

“We don’t walk here,” said 10-year-old Kerketta, referring to Angel Xpress. “We run.”"
mumbai  nkitarao  education  schools  popupschools  interstitialplaces  cityasclassroom  2015  dharavi  mobile  mobility  mobileschools  wherestudentsare  teaching  howweteach  india  mumbaimobilecreches  unicef  resgmaagarwal  doorstep  manasvikhasle  bandra  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  cv 
august 2015 by robertogreco
The phone app challenging violence against women in a Mumbai slum | KumKum Dasgupta | Global development | The Guardian
"Domestic abuse is rife in Dharavi slum, but a new project uses a smartphone app and trained community workers to improve the reporting of violence"



"The app, SNEHA believes, encourages increased reporting of violence, lets community members know what assistance is available, and helps NGOs understand more about the prevalence of violence in Dharavi. The interaction is two-way: sometimes sanginis come to know about a case and approach the survivor; at other times, survivors seek out sanginis to report incidents.

“Our volunteers are trained to advise survivors on [the] availability of medical help and also on how to approach the police.” Once cases are brought to SNEHA’s centre, counsellors help survivors file police reports and offer legal support, says Daruwalla.

Earlier this year, SNEHA promoted its work at the inaugural Dharavi biennale. Using scrap denim pieces and discarded objects, sanginis created an art project called Mapping the Hurt, an innovative visualisation of gender violence in the slum.

But if tracking and reporting violence is one part of the challenge, the next big hurdle is getting the police to act.

“Whenever we go to the police to report on domestic violence, they are reluctant to file a case. They say such issues should be settled at home,” explains Bhanuben. Even if a case is lodged, low conviction rates strengthen the impression that there is little point in reporting the crime. Further, a lack of understanding of gender issues, violence and entrenched views about women’s status among lawyers and judges often encourages outcomes that favour reconciliations, overlooking a woman’s needs and demands.

Data collected from July to December last year by SNEHA showed that of the 345 cases analysed, only 19% were reported to the police."
dharavi  violence  technology  mobile  phones  smartphones  2015  india  sneha  mumbai 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The “Urbanologists” Who Want You to Think About Steve Jobs’ Garage Next Time You Say the Word “Slum” – Next City
"If the critics are any indication, MoMA’s architecture exhibition, “Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities,” won’t be missed when it closes next week on May 25.

New York’s Justin Davidson panned the show in November before it even opened , followed by Tactical Urbanism co-author Mike Lydon’s two-part critique disputing its entire premise, including the title. The final insult arrived in March when Harvard’s Neil Brenner demolished the show’s assumptions on MoMA’s own website. But if you need a reason to see “Uneven Growth” before it’s gone, perhaps the best is becoming better acquainted with the work of Brenner’s favorite team, the Mumbai-based “urbanologists” of URBZ.

Practically speaking, URBZ is a research, design, and activist group led by Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava, who have spent the last six years working in Dharavi, the world’s most infamous slum. They refuse to call it that, however, and so do its residents. The pair titled their 2014 e-book “The Slum Outside” as a nod to this disavowal — the Dharavi they know is a middle-class neighborhood. “The slum” is always outside, somewhere else.

The slum, of course, is the hottest button in urbanism. Beneath the cliché that half the world’s population lives in cities — and that urban populations will double by 2050 — is the fact that only bottom-up informal settlements, or slums, can absorb several billion new residents in the timeframe. The debate is whether these places are engines of hope and upward mobility (i.e. the prosperity gospel of Stewart Brand, Ed Glaeser, and, to a lesser extent, Robert Neuwirth) or places where relentless entrepreneurialism belies the hopelessness of ever escaping (a point made in various polemics by Mike Davis, George Packer, and Daniel Brook).

In Dharavi, this debate matters more than ever due to the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, a controversial government proposal to swap residency rights for apartments outside the slum as well so that developers can build new, high-rise apartment towers on the land once occupied by Dharavi’s single-family homes. This, depending on who you ask, is either vital to accommodating as many as a million incoming Mumbai residents, or a government plot to trap them in high rises, separated from their communities, while developers raze their former homes for luxury buildings.

URBZ is notable in that it offers a third way at looking at Dharavi — as both a failure and a better path to success than stillborn smart cities or other attempts at top-down instant urbanism. “We haven’t exhausted urban possibility,” says Srivastava. “But because we’ve taken a certain norm — the post-World War II city — and that norm has become so expensive to maintain, you have these spillovers of people who cannot fit into that very tight definition of the city. And so they become part of a dysfunctional narrative, ‘the slum.’” Dharavi as it exists is no triumph of the city — not with one toilet per thousand people, and water provisioned from private taps. But a large part of that failure stems from insisting the city is something that must be given to residents — e.g. the current plan for free apartments in exchange for wholesale demolition and redevelopment — rather than something they can build for themselves.

As an example of the latter, Echanove and Srivastava return again and again to the notion of the “tool-house,” which they consider the emblematic urban form of Dharavi and other Mumbai slums such as Shivaji Nagar. These homes doubling as workshops enable residents to make the most of scarce space. They’re also absent from the zoning codes of most cities. As Echanove points out, “we fetishize the fact that Steve Jobs started from his garage, but it was totally illegal.” (One could argue the entire “sharing economy” is a networked version of the tool-house, with bedrooms doubling as hotel rooms and private cars serving as cabs.)

URBZ understands tool-houses as small, flexible, and networked at both the level of the neighborhood and global supply chains, a definition that underscores the parallels between a slum economy and the model making Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky a very rich man. In his recent Baffler essay, Daniel Brook mocks the oft-quoted statistic that Dharavi’s GDP approaches $1 billion, noting this breaks down to less than $1,000 per person. But as Echanove and Srivastava note in their book and elsewhere, Japan’s post-war rise to industrial prowess was due largely to the networks of small-scale factories emerging from the fire-bombed slum that was Tokyo. Although culturally distinct from Dharavi for obvious reasons, Tokyo’s resurgence represents one path South Asia’s slums could take. So do Sao Paulo, Barcelona, and Perguia — all of which URBZ have mashed-up in Photoshop with Dharavi to illustrate various trajectories.

So how do they get there? Unfortunately, you won’t find many answers at the MoMA show. By their own admission, the pair had a falling-out with their nominal teammates, MIT-POP Lab, in what even the exhibition catalogue described as a “creative and sometimes troubled collaboration.” You can find their unfiltered recommendations in “Reclaim Growth,” URBZ’ submission to the Urban Design Research Institute’s “Reinventing Dharavi” competition. Their plans call for granting residents occupancy rights rather than property rights (to discourage speculation), more carefully adding infrastructure, preserving pedestrian paths, and dignifying residents’ efforts to improve, expand, and use their homes.

“We’re not saying things should stay the way they are,” says Srivastava, “only that residents are highly involved in the changes.” The biggest difference between Dharavi as it is and the government’s plans, adds Echanove, is that the former retains the ability to evolve, sprouting new forms and functions, “unlike housing blocks that never improve over time.”

In their focus on process — Dharavi is always becoming — URBZ also describes the impulse behind such bottom-up movements and projects as Build a Better Block, Renew Newcastle , and yes, tactical urbanism, all of which aim to harness the energies of residents to improve their neighborhoods. That someone as smart as Glaeser could look at Dharavi and write, “there’s a lot to like about urban poverty,” speaks to just how much work there is left to do."
2015  greglindsay  slums  cities  urbanism  urban  justindavidson  tacticalurbanism  mikelydon  neilbrenner  mumbai  matiasechanove  rahulsrivastava  stewartbrand  edglaeser  mikedavis  georgepacker  danielbrook  robertneuwirth  informalsettlements  informal  dharavi  urbz 
may 2015 by robertogreco
When Tokyo Was a Slum – The Informal City Dialogues
"Alongside the futuristic visage of skyscraper Tokyo, a human-scale city lies along rambling roads, where mom-and-pop stores sell soap and sandals, and private homes double as independent shops engaged in local trades like printmaking and woodworking.

This is incremental Tokyo, the foundation upon which the world’s most modern city is built.

Like much of the city, these small hamlets were smoldering ash pits 70 years ago, reduced to rubble by the bombs of Allied forces during World War II. When the war ended, Tokyo’s municipal government, bankrupt and in crisis mode, was in no condition to launch a citywide reconstruction effort. So, without ever stating it explicitly, it nevertheless made one thing clear: The citizens would rebuild the city. Government would provide the infrastructure, but beyond that, the residents would be free to build what they needed on the footprint of the city that once was, neighborhood by neighborhood."



"These mixed-use habitats and low-rise, high-density neighborhoods emerged by default, not design. But though the city didn’t plan them, it considered them legitimate and supported them. Sewage systems, water, electricity and roads were later infused into all parts of Tokyo, leaving no neighborhood behind, regardless of how slummy or messy it looked. Even the traditionally discriminated-against Burakumin areas were eventually provided access to state-of-the-art public services and amenities.

The notion that infrastructure must be adapted to the built environment, rather than the other way around, is a simple yet revolutionary idea. The Tokyo model, combining housing development by local actors and infrastructure from various agencies, explains why that city has some of the best infrastructure in the world today, not to mention a housing stock of great variety and bustling mixed-use neighborhoods.

The House Is a Tool

The relationship between the city’s urban form and its vibrant economy is best illustrated by the idea of homes as tools of production. Many of the houses built in the postwar period in Tokyo were based on the template of the traditional Japanese house, in which a single structure can serve as a shop, workshop, dormitory or family house — and possibly all of those things at once. Official statistics illustrate the scale of the home-based economy. As late as the 1970s, factories employing fewer than 20 employees accounted for 20 percent of the workers and 12.6 percent of the national output in Japan. In Tokyo alone, 99.5 percent of factories had fewer than 300 workers and employed 74 percent of all factory workers, according to economist Takeshi Hayashi. What these numbers tell us is that the Japanese miracle was built not only by large-scale factories, but also relied on a vast web of small producers that often worked from their neighborhoods and their homes."



"For the people who live in Dharavi, this is not only the best possible outcome, it’s their only option. Most residents of Dharavi cannot possibly afford to move to other parts of Mumbai. Their futures will rise or fall with the fate of their neighborhood, which is why the Tokyo model, which values and cultivates neighborhoods like theirs, is probably their best hope for economic and social advancement.

That prosperity, however, depends on the local authorities heeding the lessons of Tokyo. Neighborhoods like Dharavi are already served by various NGOs and foundations. The residents are doing their part. The only missing piece is the support of city authorities, whose attitude toward such settlements sets back the city of Mumbai as a whole.

What’s more, the Tokyo model is simply an elegant one that follows the path of least resistance, allowing order and mess to naturally combine as they would without top-down intervention. It’s hard to imagine a better example of “development” in its most holistic dimension: Houses, neighborhoods, economies and communities all rising in concert with one another. The environment is deeply connected to processes of collective growth, because people, objects and lived spaces are all knit together by the impulse to constantly improve and transform. Through this process, with very little capital, we see how user-generated neighborhoods invest in the idea of growth and mobility, where self-interest and successful urbanism are one and the same."

[Tagging this with Teddy Cruz because it reminds me of his study of Tijuana and his recommendation that we learn from patterns of growth and development there.]
postwar  mixeduse  lowrise  density  mimbai  takeshihayashi  cities  organic  organicism  home-basedeconomy  production  manufacturing  factories  openstudioproject  cafes  homeoffice  homefactory  homeworkshop  homes  infrastructure  redevelopment  development  dharavi  slums  mobility  economics  middleclass  collectivism  technology  neighborhoods  asia  informality  informal  cottageindustries  2013  urban  urbanism  growth  change  government  tokyo  japan  history 
july 2013 by robertogreco
One billion slum dwellers - The Big Picture - Boston.com
"One billion people worldwide live in slums, a number that will likely double by 2030. The characteristics of slum life vary greatly between geographic regions, but they are generally inhabited by the very poor or socially disadvantaged. Slum buildings can be simple shacks or permanent and well-maintained structures but lack clean water, electricity, sanitation and other basic services. In this post, I've included images from several slums including Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, the second largest slum in Africa (and the third largest in the world); New Building slum in central Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Pinheirinho slum - where residents recently resisted police efforts to forcibly evict them; and slum dwellers from Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi, India. India has about 93 million slum dwellers and as much as 50% of New Delhi's population is thought to live in slums, 60% of Mumbai."
dharavi  pakistan  islamabad  haiti  port-au-prince  phnompenh  cambodia  informalcity  urbanism  urban  urbanization  cities  bigpicture  photography  newdelhi  pinheirinho  africa  malabo  equatorialguinea  brasil  sãopaulo  nairobi  kibera  mumbai  kolkata  via:lukeneff  kenya  india  slums  brazil 
february 2012 by robertogreco
urbanology: bazaarchitecture, streetlife, hoodism, i-city, & more
"The Institute of Urbanology aims at learning from its environment while contributing to its improvement. Its research is intended to be directly relevant to the localities where it works as well as anyone interested in urban development and neighborhood life.

Urbanology is defined as the understanding of incremental developmental processes and daily practices in any given locality through direct engagement with people and places. The institute contributes to the debate on urban development by engaging with local community groups, creating new concepts, implementing projects and recommending strategies and policies.

The Institute sharpened its methodology through years of fieldwork in New York, Bogota, Tokyo, Istanbul, New Delhi, Goa and Mumbai. It has offices in Dharavi, Mumbai and Aldona, Goa. In Dharavi, the Institute studies homegrown practices in the fields of housing, artisanship and trade, and physical and theoretical spaces where these fields converge…"
urbanology  bogotá  mumbai  nyc  tokyo  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  design  art  culture  architecture  goa  newdelhi  istanbul  dharavi  aldona  economics  ecology  systems  matiasechanove  rahulsrivastava  urbz 
september 2011 by robertogreco
March 8, 2010 - Dharavi District Redevelopment: A Symbol of the Future and a Celebration of Cultural Heritage | The 3rd Teacher
"Education across the globe is transforming from a pedagogy that trains children to be information receptors to a pedagogy that trains future generations to be knowledge seekers. An environment that supports “multiple intelligences” is imperative—it must provide a diversity of teaching and learning spaces to support a wide range of learners. Flow and agility will be intrinsic in these spaces so that the knowledge sharing and relationship between teacher and learner is constantly enhanced."
education  schools  schooldesign  pedagogy  learning  lcproject  design  thirdteacher  india  mumbai  dharavi  reggioemilia  tcsnmy 
march 2010 by robertogreco
Charles declares Mumbai shanty town model for the world | Art and design | The Guardian
"The Mumbai shanty town featured in the film Slumdog Millionaire offers a better model than does western architecture for ways to house a booming urban population in the developing world, Prince Charles said yesterday. Dharavi, a Mumbai slum where 600,000 residents are crammed into 520 acres, contains the attributes for environmentally and socially sustainable settlements for the world's increasingly urban population, he said. The district's use of local materials, its walkable neighbourhoods, and mix of employment and housing add up to "an underlying intuitive grammar of design that is totally absent from the faceless slab blocks that are still being built around the world to 'warehouse' the poor".

[see also: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/06/prince-charles-architecture ]
dharavi  mumbai  india  architecture  design  poverty  slums  sustainability  urban  urbanism  density  economics  politics 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Dharavi: User-Generated City | airoots/eirut
"Why is it that Dharavi exercises so much fascination for architects, urbanists, researchers, students and journalists from all over the world? Is it because it is the “largest slum in Asia”? Is it because it is under imminent threat of being redeveloped? Is it because it is worth billions? Is it because the global media loves to recycle stereotypes of victimhood and third world poverty? These tired clichés and false alarms have filled the news for some time. But it is time to reload our browsers."
mumbai  india  cities  user-generated  usergenerated  dharavi  asia  slums  post-industrial  hybridspace  place  design  architecture  self-development  ingenuity  capitalism  knowledge  wikipedia  growth  typology  streets  authenticity  development 
january 2009 by robertogreco

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