Choosing my own path
“Education means everything to me.”
I understand that in the West, in the UK and the USA for example everybody gets a chance to go to School. One of the co-founders of People First told me one day that actually he hated his school and left early with little or no qualifications. When he was my age, about 22 he realized his mistake and went back to school, to university to study for his degree. And now he has started an educational charity and is working for so many children to have the right to an education. He once told me “education is not merely the gaining of qualifications; it is the right to choose your own path in life”. I mention this because without People First that choice would have been denied to me, I would have still been taking my family’s goats to the river, I would not have been able to read even the local newspaper, I would have had no chance of a fulfilling life. I would have been like so many in my village, like so many of my family, unable to even fill in the form for a railway ticket without help, unable to know about my rights, unable to know which bus to catch, kept in ignorance and poverty because nobody was there to teach me to read and write.
I know there are people who say, educating village children will kill the village. They will all leave for the lights and flyovers of the cities and metros, they will abandon their homes, they will never return. But I want to tell you, who are the dishwashers behind the scenes of the five star hotels, who are the rickshaw pullers, the labourers building luxury flats for the rich? They are mainly the uneducated poor from States like Bihar. The general coaches of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata bound trains are full of such people. All travelling in hope and in dirty overcrowded coaches for the chance to make a pittance under the skyscrapers and a polluted sky, far away from the clean green air of the village. Most will return with little to show for their efforts, mostly broken dreams and empty pockets.
The trafficking of people, particularly children from Bihar is well documented but the full extent is not really known, it is a huge problem. And yet people say providing education for the village poor will make the situation worse? I say to those who doubt the value of an education, I am sure you criticise from the position of being provided one.
I will never abandon my family. Nor will any other student that I know from People First. If anything we will be able to help break the so called cycle of poverty.
I want to help provide my family with a tiled roof to replace the straw one, I want never again to see them hungry, I want them to worry no longer about the future, about their children, I want them to live lives of dignity in reasonable comfort, to never again not have money to buy medicines for their children for, my dying brother, who passed away when he was five, for want of a bottle of pills costing about one US dollar. With my education I can do all these things and have a wonderful fulfilled life myself. That is all I ask.
I was born into a Dalit caste family in a poor village in Bihar. Of course we never had toys but we used you make our own, a brick tied to a piece of string would do, but I was soon helping with the household chores and tending the goats. I have two brothers one younger and one older, and one sister. We accepted our life, in our culture to be born into a lower caste is regarded as a punishment from God for transgressions in a former life.
We were often hungry. I always remember in my childhood how my mother would always do her best to look clean, even in her tattered Sari, how she would always try to do her best for us, even if there was only a little rice to cook. And my father who never drank, but would tell us tell us stories at night by the light of a simple lantern, and would try and find a piece of plastic to cover the roof above the place on the floor where we slept, when the rains came.
There was a government school, but there was nobody there except children waiting for teachers to come, or when they did to be actually taught by them.
And then People First started a school. They came to our village because many villagers got together and donated land to them so they could build a school.
It was of course, the beginning of a whole new life, it would transform everything.
I studied hard; I knew this was my way out. I won a People First Scholarship under the CAPS scheme (Children’s Academic Personal Scholarships) to a private residential school. I remember the day I told my mum and dad I was going to study full time, and they both beamed with pride. My mum, tears in her eyes, whispered “Dear God my son is going to be somebody, he will stand tall”
I passed my school leaving certificate and to be eligible for a college scholarship through People First I had to get a first division pass, I just scraped it to be honest.
First Division means the top 10%.
I was sponsored to go to college, and after studying computer engineering locally to Intermediate level, I am now completing my degree in software and computer engineering in a prestigious college in Bangalore, I am presently learning the C++language. I give thanks for the opportunities afforded to me every single day.
I walk the path with joy and hope. firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This story is based on a series of Interviews with Updendra describing his life.
My name is Sheetal. I am 16 years of age. I have 2 brothers and I live in a small dwelling by the main road in Gaya India. My family is very poor and my mother works cleaning houses for about 50 Rupees a day.( Note about $1.10 cents). My father is too ill to work. I was lucky to go a People First School and get an education, but with my brothers being small I also need to help the family.
People First gave me a wonderful chance under the CAPS programme, and because of my situation found a part time work experience and job training opportunity in the People First Office where I am learning bookeeping and accounting. But due to support from the CAP's programme I also want to do do a Basic Diploma in Computing skills.
If it were not for the People First Staff counselling my parents to allow my education to go forward I would probably be married now with no real future .
I want to say these opportunities given by People First to myself and many others are our way out from a life without hope.
Thank you for all your help and I ask you on behalf of all of the students in this fantastic programme, please help us, against the odds, to make our dreams come true.
NOTE This was translated from Hindi and is unedited.
Greetings and best compliments of the season to you all!
The CAPS scheme, designed as it is primarily to assist gifted students gain a college education also offers full time residential education in the community for gifted students, and when funds allow, for street and railway children.
From living on the platform with a bleak future ahead of them, to starting an education which will change their lives, this is indeed a wonderful thing.
Liile Binod shown in the photograph, is one such child. Abandoned on the station, now he is full of smiles and hope.
Thank you all for your fantastic support, and please give what you can, no matter how small the donation, IT ALL HELPS!, and we promise you your money will go directly to children to give them an education . An education perhaps in their wildest dreams they thought they would never have, but which they most certainly deserve.
He has been at school for some months now, passing his exams successfully and talking of becoming a teacher himself.
Again Thank You for all your help.
(name has been changed for child protection reasons)
This is copy of a section of a report commissioned by a supporting organization concerning the CAPS scheme. It illustrates the enormous life changing effect of the programme and its inspiring effect for all our students
We are full of admiration for the student sponsorship programme facilitated by PFECT. Due to the high level of funding required it is inevitable that the number of students it can currently hope to serve is limited. However, in our eyes it serves several key purposes of benefit for the students it serves and the students who are aiming for it: it is a highly aspirational goal for students to aim for; it is highly competitive and thus a strong motivation for students to succeed at lower levels of education; it clearly has the power to genuinely transform lives; and finally, it creates a sense of positive identity between the students and PFECT. In short, it is everything that education should be.
Although an expensive programme with limited numbers, we feel that wherever possible it should continue. Whilst demanding a high ratio of financial resources , we feel the aspirational example of the CAPs students to current school students, in addition to the life-changing benefits to the CAPs students, is of immeasurable importance.
As such we think that PFECT could capitalize on the success stories of both current and former CAPs students in a more visible way in the village schools to promote maximum aspiration. Whilst it is unrealistic for every school student to progress to further education, the profile and awareness of the success stories seemed limited within the village schools.
Investigate possible avenues of targeted fundraising or corporate sponsorship (both in the UK and India) to secure necessary funding for the time length required. For example, produce CAPS-specific literature with a full breakdown of the current monthly costs required to be circulated wherever possible. Additionally, given this requirement for sustained funding, such targeted fundraising should be openly advertised as being for restricted/designated funds over a minimum time-span to ensure a student can complete their full course without jeopardizing other aspects of PFECT’s work.
From October 12th will be matching funds up to 50% on a $1000 donation. Thank you for your support and help, change a child's future and their children's futures for ever.
This Scholarship scheme is particularly targeted at girls and young women who need financial and other support to complete their education to a far higher level than would otherwise we possible. It’s the old adage, “educate a girl and you educate a whole family”
Add to that the low status of women in the villages and lack of any opportunity to study and you have as recipe for ignorance. Help us break through that ignorance by helping us educate a girl child. It gives then options and a status they could otherwise only have dreamed of, a self respect and a new awareness, and brighter future.
The following is written by Pramilla Kumari, a girl aged 18 now and studying computer sciences at a local college.
My name is Pramilla. I come from a large family of 12 children. My father is as farmer but we have very little land. Our House is made of Mud with a straw roof. My family did not want me to be educated, in fact at first they did not like me going to the local village school run by People First but I was determined. Both my parents cannot read and write. I persevered.
A lady teacher came from the People First office and said my teachers had recommended me for a scholarship to study in further education. I have always loved computers. First my family disagreed but People First bought my family a male and female goat and in return they signed an agreement not to disturb my education. I have already passed my interim examinations.
I am determined all my children will be educated; my skills will help me support them after my marriage. My education means everything to me.
Thank you for your support.
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