The New Life Centre School is ten years old this year and in that time has grown from 35 children to 450. The children in this district of West Bengal are exceptionally lucky to have Alindra Naskar, the Principal of the school living in their community, as this means that they can have a good education.
"Education is the birthright of every child" Alindra says. He never turns a child away, no matter how little the parents can pay. This area is beautiful as you can see, for its simplicity and rural life, but the other side of that is low employment and very low wages for menial work. As the parents of the school are on the whole uneducated their income is poor, but this does not mean that they undervalue education for their children, as shown by the school roll.
The main areas of employment are fisheries and brick factories, but the majority of the parents of the school live from hand to mouth, working in local shops and fields for very little pay.
For that reason the Sponsorship scheme in the school is vital to supplement the fees that are collected. Every parent makes some contribution, no matter how small, as people do not appreciate what is free according to Alindra; but it is essential that the next generation is given a chance, an opportunity to rise above the subsistence level of their parents.
I am giving you the opportunity today to raise these children’s expectations.
I write this update from Zambia having just visited the project at Chisamba.
In addition to their tailoring classes the students are busy with other activities.
They are all involved in the agricultural side of the project gaining useful life skills. At this time the maize is being harvested – as predicted the centre has beaten the poor rains and gathered more produce than last year. Arrangements are being made to collect the piles of maize from the fields and bring them to the centre, where the seeds will be removed from the cobs. It is hoped that, if funding can be found, a grinding machine can be bought to continue the process of producing the flour. Such a machine will also provide a further source of income for the project.
The first honey is now due for harvesting and the students are keen to be involved in the practical work of turning the honeycomb into jars of honey and beeswax candles. The forestry commission is keen to join forces with Kaliyangile to provide comprehensive training.
Two or three of the cows are 'in calf' and it is expected that milking will recommence in October or November.
An additional area has been set aside to grow vegetables and a heavy crop of tomatoes will be ripe very shortly.
Together with the pigs, fish and poultry there is a wide range of agricultural experiences for the students to encounter.
The computer classes are very popular. The main challenge at the moment is acquiring some more equipment.
We are very grateful for your ongoing support and encouragement!
Things are progressing well at Paluoc Carpentry workshop. They are beginning to establish a reputation for good training: which means that students pass their exams and the workshop produces reliable workers. Recruitment is getting easier.
Needless to say the record is not a perfect one;
Stephen (above) is the first born in a family of two children. One boy and one girl. His education stopped at standard four. His mother died when he was ten years old. He lives with an aunt who has a small business in second hand clothes. His father repairs shoes.He has thrived at the workshop. His attendance is very good. He took his grade 3 exams last year and passed. He is now learning how to make different types of furniture.
Then there is Jackline, below: She is the fourth in a family of nine children. Six of the children in their family have died. She is married with four children. Her husband is a mechanic.She is a very committed trainee and has done a lot of practical joinery work. She is a candidate for this year’s examination, at the same time as being a full time mother of four. She has every prospect of passing, and her success has led to a second female trainee joining the workshop.
Another trainee who sat and passed his exams after time at the workshop was David (bottom). His attendance was irregular and he was unreliable and continues to be so still.His background may help explain: He was the fifth born in a family of nine children, he left primary school in class five. Both parents are alive. The mother helps people with small jobs like washing clothes. The father is mentally disturbed and is unable to do any work.
The workshop is doing a good job with the sort of youngsters who need a second chance. Long may it continue!
And thank you very much for your support!