Reciting in front of the class
Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout South and Southeast Asia. On June 6th, 2010 he visited Shoshit Seva Sangh’s school in Patna in the Indian state of Bihar. His “Postcard” from the visit:
As a form of affirmative action, universities and vocational training schools in India set aside a percentage of places for students from historically disadvantaged communities. However, in many places they don’t even receive enough applications to cover the available spots. Shoshit Seva Sangh aims to change that for the musahar community in the area around Patna.
JK Sinha, founder and chairman of the organization, believes that providing high quality education to the highest desired level to promising musahar students will enable them to be catalysts for change for their community—one that has lived figuratively and literally on the tattered fringes of society for thousands of years. From my visit to their boarding school, I would say the 200+ current students are receiving just that.
From the youngest grades the children appeared highly disciplined. While I do not think the rote learning approach typically practiced in India is the most effective, the students seemed to have the fundamental skills appropriate for their grade level. I asked a boy in 9th grade how he would solve a basic geometry problem on the board and he didn’t hesitate in getting up and very precisely working it out on the board. The school has basic classroom, sleeping and eating facilities, as well as an expanding library and a computer lab.
I was surprised to see only one girl in the school (the daughter of one of the teachers). JK Sinha said they had a scare with a boy and girl running off together. Though the children were found unharmed, he was so concerned with the scandal that could ensue from one of their girl students getting abducted that he decided to make the school only for boys. The girls currently enrolled were sent home. JK Sinha said that there were others providing very basic levels of education in the musahar communities and that such programs would still help the girls receive skills to help her as a housewife. He said they may take girls again once they have their own fully secure facilities, but this sounded far from certain. I hope that it will in fact be the case when they build their own school complex in the coming years as women and girls are an integral part of transformational change.
When the school recently expanded, JK Sinha says 750 parents came to apply for 50 open spots (and video and pictures from the event seemed to confirm this claim). In a community where formal education has not been traditionally valued, this would seem to signal the beginnings of what could be a significant transformation.
The computer lab