Of all the children in M-East ward between 3 to 5 years, 46 per cent or nearly half the population do not attend any pre-primary school, thus missing out on the essential foundation of education, reveals a Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) report, which highlights the vulnerabilities faced by Mumbai’s urban poor.
As compared to the city’s average, M-East ward has more than double the illiteracy rate, with illiteracy at 21 per cent in slums and gaothans.
Baiganwadi, Mankhurd and Govandi have the worst literacy level in the ward. Further, enrollment rate in higher education in 18-23 age group is just 23 per cent. “When it comes to pre-school and college-level, the very foundation and the future seems bleak,” said TISS professor Amita Bhide.
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Nearly 30 per cent women are illiterate, which is twice the city’s average. “Of the total population surveyed, the number of graduates is less than 4.5 per cent as against the national average of 6.7 per cent. While Trombay Cheeta Camp reports highest enrollment rates in schooling and higher education, enrollment rates for Baiganwadi and Govandi are the lowest. These areas come across as the most vulnerable with respect to education,” it says.
Bhide added, “There is not much difference in the fees of government-aided and private schools. The financial burden, however, is due to other expenses like books, study material and school uniform. Also, number of schools are fewer than what’s required. The existing schools have no toilets and basic amenities. Children are forced to climb steep and rickety ladders. All these factors lead to dropout.”
Exposing the abysmal health conditions, the report says that of major illnesses, over 50 percent respondents reported to have ‘lifestyle diseases’, including heart disease, diabetes, respiratory ailments, blood pressure and tuberculosis (TB).
“Those areas, which report high TB incidence, are also devoid of several basic services…lack of finances is the topmost reason for not seeking treatment among those who believed they needed treatment. Data on household expenditure reveals health as being one of the highest expenses incurred by households,” it says.
Nearly 49 per cent households have to borrow, mainly for health and consumption loans, the repayment of which “stresses the already low income that people have”. Bhide added, “The beauty of a city is in bringing together different income groups. But this is a ward which is ghettoising poverty.”
While assessing nutritional status, findings reveal 45 per cent children under five are stunted and a little over one-third or 35 per cent are underweight. Nearly 59 per cent household have only two meals daily. “Further, there is a dual burden of malnutrition, with almost half the women being either too thin or overweight,” it says.
The mean age of marriage reported is 18 years for the ward, with Mankhurd and Vashi Naka reporting marriages under the legal age. Also, only 7 per cent women participate in income generating activity. “Marriage by 18 implies that most women haven’t completed higher education or explored their potential towards financial independence,” the report said.