Urban poverty across generations

"Thirty-year-old Marcos says the group Salvemos São Conrado is currently going beyond creating awareness and is moving forward to find real solutions to the situation. That's why the group is pressuring Rio's government to move ahead with a sewage project that will deal with the treatment of water that ends up on São Conrado beach.... Salvemos São Conrado is requesting that the local government provide a detailed action plan of work in the area — and has gotten the State of Rio de Janeiro's environmental body to agree to meet and determine a timeframe for the work that will show results in the short term."


Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community ManagerEducation for a mobile generation

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager

Photo: Ken Banks, kiwanja.net

There has likely been no greater generational divider than the advent of technology. Across the world, youth populations are being brought up with access to technology that was not available to previous generations. This phenomenon has reached the developing world as well, where new devices are becoming smarter, sharper and, importantly, more affordable. Unlike their parents and grandparents, youth in places like India can access a vast new world with mobile technology, and a vast new world can also access them. The result is that more poverty-alleviation initiatives have focused on catering to youth with innovative uses of technology, particularly focused around education and training initiatives.

Learning on the go

For the poor, education has often taken a backseat to survival. In Maharashtra, Mumbai's home state, literacy rates have improved over the last couple of decades in urban areas. So, too, have primary school attendance rates: Mumbai's elementary school children are nearly all (97 percent) enrolled in a public or private institution. However, that number drops significantly for secondary school. While children in India legally cannot work before the age of 14, many start laboring much younger than that. School-aged children work as delivery boys, sweeping floors, stocking shelves and other menial tasks; employment and the need to add to the family income, not surprisingly, coincide with the time when drop-out rates rise. Many children are forced to choose this path over education.

For older generations, this early employment path was the end of their formal schooling; yet, for the technologically connected children, new ways of continuing to learn and expand skills sets are being introduced. Since handheld devices are becoming increasingly main stream among urban poor youth, this population is gaining access to more and better learning opportunities through their phones. The "classroom" is finally opening up to meet the needs of the poor. While night schools are one option, mobile learning is gaining ground as well. The traditional physical classroom that previous generations needed to attend is now more flexible, mobile and accessible to a population with varying constraints. While a public policy focus on improving access to the public school system (as well as improving the system itself), a simultaneous introduction of alternative learning arenas will only benefit these vulnerable populations.

The ubiquity of mobile phones

One of the first major purchases today's urban youth makes is a mobile phone. Computers are still unaffordable to most families in slums, so the Internet is accessed through phones. The investment's purpose is initially to stay connected with friends and family, but as a study by Microsoft found, there is potential for other, perhaps more important, uses. The report conducted earlier this year, Anthropology, Development and ICTs: Slums, Youth and the Mobile Internet in Urban India, investigated mobile internet adoption among teenagers in a low-income urban setting. The goal was to understand better how mobile phones are being used by this generation and how the results may be relevant for development research.

The study found that youth in India's slums are using their mobile phones largely for entertainment purposes — games, music, videos. While this usage seems far from educational and other development initiative intentions, the study says that using mobiles for entertainment is an important start to "drawing people into the digital world." This research is important for e-learning initiatives, since making learning interesting, fun and approachable should be primary concerns. The study says that "while internet use may eventually expand to include other (instrumental) uses, entertainment remains the hook for initial access and recurrent use."

24/7 learning

Given this valuable information, it becomes apparent that successful programs need to enhance accessibility and affordability, but they also need to integrate a "deep sense of play, self-exploration and learning." One of these platforms available to urban youth is the "Mobile Learning Solution," a socially-inclusive development program founded by the NIIT Foundation that aims to upgrade the skill base and employability of marginalized youth living in the urban slums and even some rural areas.

Mobile Learning Solution seeks to create a "24/7 habit of learning," allowing users to access information at their own convenience. The initiative seeks to upgrade the skills of youth ages 17-25 who would otherwise enter the informal sector, perhaps following the traditional employment of their parent or grandparent. "With an effort to resolve the issue of employability in slum areas, the vision of the project is to provide employability skills to the urban slum youth ... using their mobile handsets," says an article on mBillionth's award page. Mobile Learning Solution offers English language content applications that can be uploaded to mobile phones, mostly for free. The courseware "encourages students to practice English and learn on their own, outside of the classroom environment, inculcates learning, enhances vocabulary through a self-quizzing mechanism and practices pronunciation with the audio-video word-list and Hindi-English dictionary."

While primary school students attend at better rates than secondary school students, the public school system at all levels is failing its students. In Mumbai, 40-50 percent of elementary school-aged children cannot read or write. Mobile-learning initiatives can, therefore, also be used to enhance the experience of students in under-served school systems and expand access to learning. Initiatives have started to target younger children as well, shifting from mobile phones as entertainment to a classroom at an early age. In partnership with Sesame Workshop India, Groupshot, a US-based design and development group which creates technology for informality, is creating mobile phone-based education tools for slum youth in India. "Revolving around the concept of the cellphone as a shared social and educational device, children will be able to engage their immediate community and environment as a living laboratory in which they will collaboratively learn through play and exploration." New opportunities and strategies for engaging students can employ technology to support those without consistent access to education as well as supplement traditional education systems.

What this means for the "generation gap"

Breaking the cycle of poverty that has persisted for decades in most families will take great innovation and collaboration. At the core of what will launch this break is expanding educational opportunities. Given the economic constraints of the poor in India's slums, it is difficult to see how the traditional education system can, as it currently operates, meet the needs of the complicated situations of these children. And while developing the public system should remain the state's primary concern, technology has the potential to extend the classroom experience to a generation of mobile-connected learners in ways previous generations could never have imagined.

Like any self-learning initiatives, the key will be to make the programs interesting, convenient, affordable and easy to follow. As the Microsoft study showed, phones are already in constant use. Development initiatives can fuse current uses with innovative and effective content. If this blend happens, technology will have the potential to be adopted for a wide variety of causes — from teaching farmers to sow their fields properly to giving new mothers essential information for feeding their newborns to enhancing skills in a virtual world full of trades that can be transferred to the real world, and make a real impact.

Julisa Tambunan, Jakarta Community ManagerAnak jalanan punya harapan

Julisa Tambunan, Jakarta Community Manager

Perkampungan kumuh bukan tempat yang ideal untuk berkembang, utamanya bagi generasi termuda kita. Kemiskinan dan kurangnya akses terhadap fasilitas tumbuh kembang anak menghasilkan angka anak jalanan yang terus bertambah. Data terakhir menunjukkan sedikitnya delapan ribu anak berkeliaran di pemukiman informal Jakarta dan sekitarnya. Sekolah Master di Depok memastikan bahwa masih ada harapan bagi anak-anak ini.

Generasi yang hilang

Ketika kita bicara tentang pemukiman kumuh di Jakarta dan sekitarnya, yang jumlah penghuninya makin bertambah dan tak ada tanda-tanda berkurang, seringkali kita melupakan bahwa anak-anak adalah kelompok yang paling rentan di sana. Padahal, untuk memutus rantai kemiskinan, anak-anak ini harusnya mengenyam pendidikan yang cukup.

Mulai tahun ajaran 2012/2013, pemerintah Jakarta punya program wajib belajar 12 tahun (sebelumnya 9 tahun) di mana anak-anak akan mendapatkan pendidikan gratis sampai tingkat sekolah menengah atas. Namun dalam kenyataannya, angka masuk sekolah mungkin tingga, namun angka tinggal di sekolah semakin menurun. Kebanyakan anak-anak dari keluarga miskin pun putus sekolah dan kembali bekerja di sektor informal untuk membantuk keluarganya. Mengapa demikian? Sekolahnya memang gratis, namun biaya-biaya tambahan lain seperti uang buku atau seragam membuat kelompok miskin lebih memilih untuk tidak menyekolahkan anaknya daripada ada pengeluaran tambahan lain.

Anak-anak kelompok usia tertentu yang tidak bersekolah ini pun mulai turun ke jalan, mencari uang dari mengamen, mengasong, memulung sampah, bahkan mengemis. Yang mengkhawatirkan adalah mereka pun menjadi rentan sekali terhadap kegiatan kriminal seperti mencopet, penggunaan obat-obatan terlarang, dan perilaku seks tak aman. Data dari Departemen Dalam Negeri menunjukkan bahwa angka anak jalanan Jakarta yang bekerja atau bermukim secara ilegal di sektor informal mencapai delapan ribu anak. Lagi-lagi, kebanyakan program percepatan atau pengembangan masyarakat dari pemerintah maupun lembaga non-pemerintah kebanyakan melupakan generasi berusia di atas lima tahun dan di bawah 18 tahun ini. Kalau pun ada program untuk anak-anak kelompok usia ini khususnya anak jalanan, seperti rumah singgah, tingkat keberhasilan dan keberlanjutannya sungguh minim.

Jika hal ini tak ditangani, Jakarta terancam kehilangan satu generasi dan siklus kemiskinan akan seterusnya berputar.

Sekolah gratis

Belakangan nama Sekolah Master banyak diperbincangkan orang. Sekolah gratis untuk tingkat TK sampai SMA yang berada di Depok, salah satu kota satelit Jakarta ini menerima anak-anak usia 5–18 tahun dari keluarga tak mampu, diutamakan anak-anak jalanan yang putus sekolah dan ingin kembali ke bangku pendidikan. Dirintis oleh mantan anak jalanan bernama Nurokhim, Sekolah Master berdiri pada tahun 2002. Nama Master adalah singkatan dari Masjid Terminal, nama umum yang digunakan untuk menyebut masjid Al Muttaqien yang terlelak di kompleks Terminal Depok. Nama resmi dari sekolah ini adalah Pusat Kegiatan Belajar Masyarakat Bina Insan Mandiri.

Nurokhim sendiri adalah anak asli kampung sini, hidup sebagai anak jalanan selama bertahun-tahun dan akhirnya berdagang di wilayah terminal. Melihat semakin banyak anak jalanan di lingkungan terminal, ia dan beberapa rekannya kemudian mencoba mengumpulkan mereka dan mengajari baca-tulis serta pendidikan agama. "Saya dulu juga anak jalanan. Anak jalanan jadi begitu karena tak punya kesempatan. Mereka butuh kasih sayang dan motivasi," ungkap Nurokhim. Ketika berdiri, ada sekitar 300 anak jalanan yang berhasil dijaring oleh Nurokhim dan rekan-rekannya. Karena tak memiiki gedung sekolah, ia pun meminta ijin untuk menggunakan masjid di belakang terminal untuk melakukan kegiatan belajar-mengajar sebanyak 3 kali seminggu.

Sekolah Master mengajarkan program Paket A, paket B dan Paket C serta berbagai kursus secara gratis kepada anak-anak dari keluarga miskin. Tak ada seragam. Gedung sekolahnya pun sungguh sederhana, jika bisa dibilang gedung. Sekolah ini melangsungkan kegiatan belajar-mengajar di bekas kontainer, gedung semipermanen, dan gedung bekas arena hiburan di masa lalu. Waktunya belajarnya fleksibel, berlangsung dari pukul 7 pagi sampai 22 malam. Kebanyakan pengajarnya adalah alumni sekolah dan para mahasiswa Universitas Indonesia, yang letak kampusnya tak jauh dari sekolah ini. Mereka tak dibayar.

Merangkai mimpi-mimpi berserakan

Sampai saat ini, lebih dari dua ribu anak dari kalangan miskin di Jakarta dan sekitarnya dari tingkat TK sampai SMA merintis ulang mimpi mereka di Sekolah Master tanpa biaya sepeser pun. "Sekitar 400 orang tinggal di sini karena sudah tidak punya tempat tinggal," tambah Nurokhim.

Yang mengagumkan, hanya sekitar 20 persen saja operasional sekolah bergantung pada donatur, sisanya ditutup oleh koperasi siswa dan usaha kecil dan menengah rintisan sekolah seperti usaha sablon. Pihak sekolah juga mendapatkan sumbangan tanah dari masyarakat yang tinggal di sekitar masjid untuk melakukan aktivitas mereka. “Kami bekerja sama dengan beberapa kementrian terkait, dunia akademisi, kewirausahaan, dan lain-lain. Karenanya, banyak terobosan yang kami terapkan agar anak-anak di sini bisa bagus saat keluar meski sarana kurang,” ujar Nurokhim mengenai kemitraan yang ia rintis untuk mempertahankan sekolah ini tetap berdiri.

Dalam perkembangannya, sekolah ini pun tak hanya menyediakan pendidikan gratis, tapi juga kesehatan, pemberdayaan ekonomi, dan advokasi layanan hukum. Di sana ada klinik gratis yang dilengkapi ambulan dan tenaga medis. Beberapa siswa terpilih diberi pendidikan kewirausahaan lalu disalurkan untuk magang atau diberi modal awal untuk usaha di sektor informal yang sifatnya berkelanjutan.

Kualitas siswa jebolan Sekolah Master pun tidak main-main. Sekitar 70 persen siswa Sekolah Master lulus ujian nasional dengan nilai memuaskan. Siswa yang tidak lulus umumnya adalah siswa yang tingkat kehadirannya sangat rendah. Sejumlah siswa yang telah lulus SMA berhasil mendapatkan beasiswa ke Perguruan Tinggi Negeri, bahkan ke luar negeri. "Sebulan sekali kami rapat dengan sekolah induk untuk membahas kurikulum dan memberi nilai harian siswa. Jadi sekolah ini menjaga betul kualitasnya. Kami juga aktif mencari sumber-sumber beasiswa yang bisa diakses lulusan sekolah kami," jelas Nurrohim mengenai strategi mereka.

Beberapa kali, perwakilan siswa Sekolah Master menyabet juara olimpiade matematika dan IPA di tingkat Jabodetabek, sampai nasional. Tidak heran jika sekolah ini dinilai sukses mengembalikan harapan anak-anak jalanan yang sering terlupakan. Sekolah Master mendapat berbagai macam penghargaan dari tingkat daerah hingga nasional. Di situs sederhana Sekolah Master, teruntai kata-kata manis, "Di sini aku merangkai mimpi-mimpi yang berserakan. Aku pasti bisa."

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community ManagerDe generación a generación: jóvenes enseñan a adultos mayores a leer para apoyar a su comunidad

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community Manager

Al interior de México las mujeres, indígenas y adultos mayores no gozan de igualdad de oportunidades en temas de acceso educativo, salud y laboral entre otros. Dentro de estas poblaciones, los adultos mayores analfabetas que viven en las ciudades enfrentan una constante vulnerabilidad al no contar con las habilidades suficientes para poder satisfacer sus necesidades básicas y difícilmente pueden ingresar al mercado laboral por falta de capacidades. La generación de adultos mayores de 65 años o más, son los que presentan mayor rezago educativo. De acuerdo al Consejo Nacional de Población (CONAPO), en México en el año 2011 el 24 por ciento de las personas de 65 años o mayores eran analfabetas, mientras que el 94 por ciento de la población entre los 15 años de edad y los 64 saben leer y escribir y son capaces de utilizar dicho conocimiento.

Problemática: analfabetismo en adultos mayores en el DF

A pesar de que el Distrito Federal es la entidad con menor grado de analfabetismo y rezago educativo, el número de adultos mayores analfabetas presenta un porcentaje importante que enfrenta la dificultad de ingresar al mercado laboral y beneficios de este entre ellos la seguridad social. De acuerdo al Director General del Instituto de la Juventud del Distrito Federal (INJUVE-DF), Javier Hidalgo, afirma que de la población que habita en el DF sin considerar la Zona Metropolitana, cerca del 3 por ciento, no saben leer ni escribir, es decir cerca de 200 mil personas. De este total, 130 mil son mujeres que se encuentran entre los 60 y 80 años de edad, por lo que se presentan dos factores de exclusión social, el género y la edad. Las delegaciones con mayor analfabetismo sonde Milpa Alta con 4 por ciento, Iztapalapa con 2.8 por ciento y Xochimilco con 2.7 por ciento.

La literatura en política social contribuye a dimensionar el problema a través del enfoque de medios de vida sustentable el cual mide la vulnerabilidad de las poblaciones a partir del acceso a cinco capitales, como son el financiero, trabajo, social, físico y humano; la suma de ellos posibilitan a una persona a tener insumos y desarrollar capacidades para alcanzar su desarrollo. Si bien es cierto que el bienestar conlleva la presencia de todos los capitales, la ausencia de cada uno de ellos impacta en el resto de los capitales. En este sentido, la falta del capital humano conlleva a que las personas no tengan habilidades para vincularse al mercado laboral o a la economía, por lo tanto su capital laboral y financiero se ve afectado.

Con base en lo anterior, los adultos mayores del DF que no saben leer y escribir no tienen acceso al mercado laboral formal, en este sentido también son excluidos del sistema de seguridad social. De tal forma, el desarrollar capacidades educativas, como es la alfabetización en los adultos mayores, tiene un impacto positivo. Si bien la educación por sí sola no es responsable de que esta población obtenga las garantías sociales, el incrementar su capital humano mejora su acceso a oportunidades laborales.

De acuerdo al Director General de Operación de Servicios Educativos, Antonio Ávila, afirma que los adultos mayores sin saber leer y escribir son estigmatizados y excluidos socialmente, por lo que es necesario brindarle a esta población el privilegio de tener una educación que les posibilite estar informados, ser partícipes de las decisiones y tener conocimiento de tus derechos y deberes básicos como ciudadanos. El incluir a los adultos en la alfabetización les da un sentido de pertenencia y participación en la sociedad y les ayuda a fortalecer su autoestima.

Caso: jóvenes del INJUVE DF enseñan a adultos mayores a leer

En el DF, el INJUVE DF afirma que tiene por objetivo ayudar a los jóvenes en el ejercicio pleno de sus derechos, se les brinda apoyo en educación, ya sea continuar con sus estudios o retomarlos, capacitación para el trabajo, oportunidades de diversión, cultura y deporte, así como hacer trabajos comunitarios en beneficio de su comunidad en materia de: medio ambiente, entusiasmo cívico para una mejor convivencia ciudadana, salud sexual, alfabetización a adultos mayores y recuperación de espacios públicos, entre otras actividades recreativas. Todo lo anterior para que los jóvenes vivan procesos integrales de formación y sean agentes de cambio en sus entornos.

Con el fin de otorgar insumos a los adultos mayores en el DF para que puedan desarrollar estrategias de vida, el INJUVE DF implementó un proyecto de alfabetización en personas de la tercera edad.

El proyecto del Instituto es parte del Programa de Analfabetismo Cero, el cual en coordinación con el GDF y con los jóvenes estudiantes del programa Prepa Sí y de la UNAM participaron en la instrucción de aquellos que no cuentan con estudios en el DF para la terminación de primaria y secundaria así como analfabetismo. Para la implementación del programa se organizaron 400 brigadas de jóvenes para la alfabetización de la población durante los primeros 6 meses del programa en centros comunitarios, módulos de participación ciudadana, domicilios particulares y en escuelas. Se implementó el método silábico a través de actividades lúdicas para enseñar a la población la lectoescritura, el cual consiste en enseñar trazos y sonidos para posteriormente unirlos a las vocales y luego a otras consonantes.

En la etapa de implementación del proyecto por parte del INJUVE DF, que se llevó a cabo en las delegaciones de Coyoacán, Milpa Alta, Iztapalapa, Xochimilco y Tlalpan, se ha entregado el reconocimiento a más de 500 adultos mayores que culminaron el curso de alfabetización. Uno de los participantes afirmó que de pequeño no cursó ningún grado escolar por falta de recursos económicos, afirmo que le motivó ser parte del esquema de alfabetización ya que es integrante del Comité Ciudadano de su comunidad y los oficios requieren el desarrollo de capacidades para poder gestionar los apoyos a la comunidad.


A través de la alfabetización se posibilita a los adultos mayores a insertarse en la vida económica y social de sus entornos, un estudio del Instituto Nacional para la Alfabetización de adultos mayores en Estados Unidos, demostró que los adultos buscaban alfabetizarse mejorar su situación laboral, ser mejores esposos, padres y miembros de familia, así como mejores ciudadanos y participar en la vida política de sus comunidades.

Sin embargo en un nivel más profundo, es importante que estas estrategias se vean acompañadas de la vinculación de los adultos mayores en sus entornos, por ejemplo la promoción del empleo y vinculación por medio de una bolsa de trabajo que se el enlace con los prestadores de servicios y empresas que desean contratar personas de 60 años de edad. Así mismo, es necesario sensibilizar a la sociedad y en especial a los empresarios para que promuevan oportunidades laborales y no se discrimine a los adultos por su edad.

Por otro lado, otra de las áreas de oportunidad son las disparidades entre generaciones con respecto al alfabetismo digital, si bien es necesario empezar por lo básico, hoy en día las sociedades de la información representan tanto oportunidades para los capacitados como grandes desventajas para los rezagados.

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community ManagerSalvemos São Conrado: Rio's new generation using social networks for the environment

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager

According to recent research from various technology companies, one in ten youth in Rio who own a mobile phone use that device for Internet access. On average, local youth are connected to Facebook about 5.3 hours a day, similar to the time reported in cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston (Veja, November 2012). But many of these youth in Rio are using the Internet and social networks not just to socialize, but also to mobilize their peers to engage in social and environmental causes. The common denominator is their high motivation and commitment to their environment, no matter where they live and what they do in the city.

Such is the case of Marcos Braz and a group of surfers and engaged friends, most living in Rocinha, who are worried about the contamination of São Conrado beach, located in Rio's southern zone and considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in the city, besides being an internationally renowned place to surf. In early 2012, the group decided to organize a street protest against contamination in the area; since they had all seen the limited effectiveness of traditional street protests in Rio, however, they decided to come up with a different approach to mobilizing people to change the situation.

After a few working sessions, the group decided to use alternative media as a channel to mobilize people against the contamination of the famous beach. They created the page "Salvemos São Conrado" (Let's Save São Conrado) on Facebook, where they post articles, photos, and videos showing the trash and the abundance of rats due to the lack of adequate sewage in the area, most of it coming from underserved areas of the Rocinha neighborhood. The Facebook page also reports about the cases of skin problems and many other diseases, even hepatitis, caused by swimming in these polluted waters. Currently, the group has more than 2500 followers and has brought considerable attention to this environmental and social problem.

30-year-old Marcos says the group Salvemos São Conrado is currently going beyond creating awareness and is moving forward to find real solutions to the situation. That's why the group is pressuring Rio's government to move ahead with a sewage project that will deal with the treatment of water that ends up on São Conrado beach. The public resources have already been allocated to the project, but work hasn't started yet and nobody knows when and how the project will develop. Salvemos São Conrado is requesting that the local government provide a detailed action plan of work in the area. The group has also gotten the INEA, the State of Rio's environmental body, to agree to meet and determine a timeframe for the work that will show results in the short term.

When URB.IM talked to members of Salvemos São Conrado, the group noted that its members are more engaged now than ever in following up on the concrete results of the sewage project. The group also wants to legally create an NGO and move forward with additional initiatives to complement their actions. The first of these upcoming projects is a series of educational campaigns in Rocinha to tackle the lack of environmental education. The group also wants to raise awareness to stop littering and encourage recycling in order to close the gap on all factors in the pollution of São Conrado.

The group Salvemos São Conrado no longer considers itself a local initiative, but a global one — not only because of the many surfers from around the world who value this famous beach and are interested in saving it, but also thanks to social media and the opportunities it offers to share images, videos, and other resources in real time to all who are interested, regardless of their geographical location. Marcos notes that although Internet and computer access is limited in low-income neighborhoods like Rocinha, there is increasing access to online services, and the group still considers social media the best means to mobilize people in favor of their common environmental cause, even if they live in low-income communities.

We will continue to monitor the results of this sewage project, as well as the evolution of the group Salvemos São Conrado. Please check its Facebook page and the following video on the contamination of this beloved beach.

Add new comment