Radhika Mittal is the founder of an NGO called Super School India which is a youth-run education initiative for urban slum development. She graduated from the National University of Singapore and has a professional background in Corporate Social Responsibility. Born in India, she was brought up in Singapore which gave her the opportunity to see the stark contrast in the quality of the public schooling systems of both countries.
Started Off With a Simple Math Question
In 2014, when she moved back to India, she came in contact with the slum children living around her residence in Sainik Farms, New Delhi. They were visiting her house for Asthmiat the end of Navratras. Curious, she quizzed them on Math questions and was disappointed to see bright and witty kids unable to answer them. Radhika knew that the concept of ‘equal opportunities’ was an illusion because India’s public schooling system put these kids at a glaring disadvantage from the moment they were born into poverty. She knew a good place to start would be her immediate neighbourhood and hence, Super School started.
A Leap of Faith
Many people think of improving lives of children but only few have the courage to do something about the cause. Radhika Mittal is one of them. Leaving behind everything in Singapore and taking a leap of faith, she settled in Delhi and started working towards actualizing the concept of ‘equal opportunities’. Initially, she started by giving them free post school classes for subjects like English and Maths along with practical lessons and discussions on civics and morality.
Radhika engaging with the kids in a discussion on civic sense
Why Don’t We Make the Children Their Own Teachers?
According to her, the answer to development issues lies in local community action. Initially, she struggled to find committed volunteers from Sainik Farms and surrounding areas. As Radhika could not sustain teaching all the classes on her own, the school was pushed to improvise. She asked the school’s seniors who were academically stronger if they’d like to teach the younger classes. The excited response and commitment from the senior kids was overwhelming! They never miss a class, turn up rain or shine and absolutely detest it when the school closes for holidays. They support Radhika and the volunteers in managing the school. In fact at the time this article is being written, Radhika is visiting her home in Singapore and the classes are going on as normal in Delhi. Over time, Radhika was approached by her friends who have now become dedicated volunteers of the school teaching the senior classes.
Super School’s senior students, Kareena and Khushboo, teaching the younger classes
Acting Their Way to the Top
The school is not a place of pity or sympathy. Radhika does not allow anyone to treat the kids as charity cases. The school wants to make the children see that their financial limitations does not absolve them of their societal duties and that they have the power to make a change. However, Radhika mentions that when she started off, she was guilty of thinking she’s doing charity. The change in attitude came when, as a Diwali activity in 2015, she encouraged the kids to prepare and act out a street play on anti-crackers. The response from the public was extraordinary with many people telling the children that their play had a positive impact on them. The kids (along with Radhika) saw that they too have a contribution towards society and since then, street plays have become a way of life for Super School India. It is one of the best ways to positively socialize children on issues like domestic violence, cleanliness, etc.
Super School students during their street play performances
Evolving – Doing More than Academics
As Radhika learned more about the children and their families, she found out that, along with education, a larger focus was needed on other development issues like gender equality, safety, sanitation & health in the slum community the kids come from. The organisation has advocated for these issues and used their goodwill with the parents to push the agenda of a better living. 9 motivated children were selected to become leaders and they, under the guidance of Radhika, spread the message of these issues in their neighbourhood and reshape their lives and the communities they live in. Radhika often collaborated with other NGOs to roll out these projects.
Super School students and volunteers leading slum surveys to collect data for our health and sanitation project
Now and Going Ahead
Now, it’s been one and a half year since she started this organization. She is still providing post school classes along with baby steps in elevating the slum conditions. She along with the kids has conducted many comprehensive surveys, street plays and workshops for the children and the general public. All of these events were covered by various online and offline media. Currently, she is working on improving the academic curriculum to make it more structured, creating an impact measurement model and developing sanitation and waste management projects in the slum area as contribution towards Swacch Bharat. She is also looking for enthusiastic people to join the core team of Super School India. She aims to create local youth leaders with strong morals and work ethics one slum at a time.