Apologies for the delay in updates. I have just returned from a field visit to many of the villages where the project is currently operating, as well as villages which have previously benefited from the project activities.
The villages where the project operates typify rural India - largely agrarian and poor, the women do the housework, and the children do not study. This is the same situation that one can find in most of rural India. However, these project activities are changing these few villages into special exceptions.
In the newest villages the team reminded me again and again that the project had only been running for 6 months. Still, the impact was evident. The children sit proudly in their new uniforms, it not possible to tell which children came from the more privileged families. The distribution of uniforms, bags and materials, combined with the special teacher training, and improvements to the school building has resulted in over 90% attendance.
They perform songs that they had learnt about the dangers of drinking and addiction, about the importance of hygiene. The hygiene issue is a big one here: before the project activities began, the whole village used to defecate openly by the roadside behind the school. By 7 o'clock the smell would be coming in through the windows. This has ended now, with awareness raising and toilet construction throughout the village.
The children tell me how much they enjoy going to school now. A number who are members of the 'Bal Panchayat' (the 'Child Parliament') step forwards, introduce themselves and explain their roles. Each has their area of responsibility, in the school and in the village. The Education Minister is responsible for making sure that children attend school and complete their school work. The Health Minister is responsible for making sure they wash their hands and eat nutritiously, and importantly, that they understand why they should do these things.
In another village, I sit in on a 'reading improvement programme' class. Here, children who are struggling with their studies, and especially with basic literacy, are given special attention. The project team have produced a series of cards which very cleverly allows a teacher to combine many different letter combinations producing words. The cards progress in 6 sets as the children become more proficient. Under ordinary circumstances, village children who were struggling would simply be left to fail and drop out.
Indeed, if it were not for the project activities, the vast majority of children in these villages would have little chance of completing their education. Instead, on this trip, I saw many of the 'bidi' cigarette rolling houses where they would have been working, lying closed.
Thanks to your donations, these children have the opportunity to escape the grinding poverty they would otherwise have remained in for generations.They understand the importance of education instead of going into employment early, and their aspirations are high.
Thank you all for funding this life changing work.
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