Today, The School of Life provides free education for over 150 of Varanasi's children, many who call the slums of the Ghats home.
Those living in the slums along the Ghats of the Ganges river endure life without food insecurity and access to government health care. Their homes made from the rubbish found on the streets, hardly stable enough to provide safety from Varanasi’s extreme weather where it can reach 6° Celsius in Winter and 45° in Summer.
Mark Twain once said of Varanasi that it’s.. "older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together". The holy city of India, it is the Hindu belief that death in Varanasi will bring salivation, and the water of the Ganges river will purify the soul.
Lonely Planet warns tourists to ‘Brace yourself. You're about to enter one of the most blindingly colourful, unrelentingly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet places on earth. Varanasi takes no prisoners. But if you're ready for it, this may just turn out to be your favourite stop of all.’
and also one of the driving causes of growing inequality. The ‘Dalits’ are branded as the lowest social group in the Hindu caste system, subjecting those from within that ‘caste’ as ‘untouchable’.
Marginalisation of those judged to be ‘Dalit’ means being tasked in gruesome and often dangerous jobs no one else will do. Most of the students attending the Basic Human Needs supported school live in a society that rejects them, denying them basic human rights based on an archaic class system. Education becomes a privilege only entitled for higher castes.
In 2012, Basic Human Needs was founded by Canadian volunteers who had made the decision to commit their lives to give free the education for India’s street kids. What began with free tuition on the dirty streets, now provides 120 students free education based on a Montessori curriculum. The school has also grown to provide free boarding for 30 students, allowing them a safe place to all home and concentrate on their education.