Showing light to the underprivileged

- October 26, 2023
| By : Mohd Shehwaaz Khan |

The newly inaugurated lighthouse, a centre to provide skills training, at Matia Mahal promises to build careers of those on the periphery of the society

EMPOWERING SELF: Students in a classroom at a Lighthouse in Malka Ganj

Residents in and around Matia Mahal will have an opportunity to upgrade their skills-set thanks to the Capital’s third Lighthouse that was inaugurated by Delhi Chief Minister on October 10 in this quarter of the walled city.

The Lighthouse project — a collaboration between the Delhi Skill and Entrepreneurship University (DSEU) and the Pune-based Lighthouse Communities Foundation — is dedicated to providing job-oriented skill education and soft skills training to underprivileged youth within the city.

Patriot visited the Lighthouses already in operation — in Kalkaji, which opened its doors on March 9, 2022, and Malka Ganj, inaugurated on July 20, 2022 — to gain insight into the impact of this initiative and government’s efforts.

In the Kalkaji Lighthouse, situated near the fish market, the atmosphere within the classrooms was vibrant. Students were engaged in a variety of activities, including reading newspapers at their desks, participating in academic and extra-curricular activities, and undergoing computer training.

“We started this as a community centre where children from nearby areas would come and study. We had started by teaching them in tents,” says Shifali Gupta, the centre head.

“DSEU is the government body that helped us with building the Lighthouse. The infrastructure was provided by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB). Since it was just a community centre, DUSIB helped us in renovating the centre as per the standards of all the Lighthouses in the country.”

The programmes of all the Lighthouses in Delhi are funded by Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and almost all the courses are free.

“We have a foundation course and vocational skilling course,” informs Shifali.

In the foundation course, which spans for a month, children from disadvantaged backgrounds in nearby areas perform different activities for ‘self-discovery’, along with gaining English and digital proficiency that help them land a job. They are then counselled for a job or a course of their choice, depending on the eligibility criteria.

“Only people with immediate financial needs go for placement after the foundation course. Many choose vocation training,” says Mehraj Khan, the head of Malka Ganj Lighthouse. The organisation helps students land a job with its corporate partners.

ACCESSING OPPORTUNITY: The front of Kalkaji Lighthouse which was a community centre

In the vocational skilling course, spanning six months, students have a choice to opt for a course which includes digital marketing, beauty therapy, graphic designing, office executive work, HR, java development, among others.

The Lighthouse has partnered with corporate organisations such as NIIT Foundation, Tata Strive, Tech Mahindra, ICICI Foundation, Whirlpool, besides others.

“Most of the courses for skilling are free. Only when a course extends our budget limit do we ask for some charge – which could be anywhere between a thousand or three thousand rupees,” explains Shefali.

So far, students have been placed in organisations such as Amazon, Uniqlo, Bata, Croma, Chaayos, Byju’s, among others.

As of September 2023, 491 (against 567 who completed the skilling course) trainees from Kalkaji centre and 320 (against 413 who completed the skilling course) from Malka Ganj have earned placement.

“These young people who are doing well in life become inspiration for the community. We often call our alumni to share their journey because it boosts the morale of students here,” Mehraj says.

“We have three Lighthouses till now. So, we are covering a lot of areas. Kalkaji is covering south Delhi, Malka Ganj is covering north, and Matia Mahal covers the centre. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. We have students coming from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and neighbouring states,” he adds.

The fourth Lighthouse will open in Patparganj.

One of the most difficult tasks is to convince parents to enrol their children, especially girls, says 20-year-old Annu from Mazdoor Kalyan Camp, Okhla, who works for the Outreach Program. Annu started as a student in the Lighthouse and was later employed there.

“My parents allowed me to do only a beautician’s course because I am a girl,” she says.

“I used to lack confidence before I came here. When I decided to improve, I decided to switch from learning how to give beauty treatments to training to become an office executive.”

Annu says that her parents encouraged her to continue when she met Manish Sisodia and was also featured in the media.

“My brother showed it to my parents and said, ‘The girls of our house are being featured in newspapers’; this is when my parents started to believe in me,” she smiles.

“They allowed me to do whatever I wanted.”

In the Outreach Program, Annu ensures she reaches out to the girls of the slums in nearby areas.

“I was lucky. But there may be girls who are not as lucky. I want to encourage all of them,” she says.

Shifali informs that there are more girls than boys in the Kalkaji centre.

For Ashu Kushwaha, who has completed his BA from University of Delhi, the organisation came as a blessing during the times of financial difficulties and lack of resources. He was working odd jobs, including as salesman and delivery boy, before he learnt about the programmes in the organisation in Malka Ganj.

“I got placed just after my foundation course,” he says.

“A lot of children in the slum areas do not look for good jobs because they believe that they do not deserve them… Whenever they are placed in a good job, I feel so proud.”

Akshit Kumar Yadav, a resident of Saket, has a similar story. A student of University of Delhi, he learnt about the Lighthouse from his friends.

DIGITAL EMPOWERMENT: A computer lab in Kalkaji Lighthouse that is mandatory for all students

“When I completed my graduation, I knew that I needed to earn a living to support myself financially,” says Akshit, who is doing an Office Executive course in the Kalkaji Lighthouse.

“No doubt, I have completed my graduation but I always lacked confidence. Lighthouse helped me boost my confidence and nurtured me.”

Akshit is simultaneously doing his Master’s in Public Administration from IGNOU.