As well as running the New Life Centre school, Mr Naskar has provided a tailoring course and a computer course in the classrooms after school, for young women and men who leave school with no qualifications, and are in need of vocational training.
The computer course has had a difficult time as the electricity in this area is unpredictable, and the pandemic curtailed this activity for the time being. However the tailoring course has been running since 2008, when a group of Hands Around the World volunteers helped to build the second block of classrooms, which provided space for this programme.
One of Alindra’s extended family, who had trained in tailoring has run the course since 2008, and over 200 ladies have completed it, many going on to be self-employed working from home as can be seen in the photos.
This vital source of income in an extremely deprived area is just another way that Mr Naskar enables the local community to broaden their horizons and have more choice in their own lives and their childrens.
Many of the women who have attended the tailoring course have sent their children to the NLC school, thus ensuring a good quality education for the next generation, which they were deprived of themselves.
The New Life Centre school finally reopened to all the pupils on 16th March 2022. The last two years have been difficult for Mr Naskar as he has struggled to keep in touch with the older children in the school by various means. The Indian government advised schools to go online, as schools did here, but in an area where the majority of parents do not have access to the internet, this was impossible!
Undeterred Mr Naskar kept in touch with the staff who maintained some contact with the older children, either through phones or delivering hard copies of work to be filled in and returned. Despite these conditions, those sitting their Board exam in 2021 did extremely well and have moved on to college and further studies.
The consequences of the pandemic will be felt for many years in this isolated rural location. Many families left the area to go to the city, where there was more help and the chances of a better living. The Government schools in the area around the NLC are offering food packages, which is a Government incentive to get children back to school, but also means that the school roll for the NLC has diminished.
As always Mr Naskar remains positive that the lure of a good education will win and he is confident that parents who are now sending their children to the Government schools will return to the NLC in due course. The discipline and ethos of the NLC as seen in the assembly photo means that the students, who are destined to repeat the ‘hand to mouth’ living of their parents, if they attend the local Government schools, will be given greater choices in the NLC and further education, which is their gateway to a better life.
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In my last report I wrote about one of the female students who had passed her Board Exam with flying colours. The whole class of Year X at the New Life Centre School did well scoring between 87% and 75%.
Quite a few of the students were sponsored by HATW and Alindra has enabled them to go onto further education in Senior Secondary schools locally. As well as Nilima who I mentioned last time Abu is another student who was sponsored throughout his time at the school.
The photo below is of Abu when he entered the school in 2012. He had the same sponsor for 9 years and so the sponsor has watched this young man develop into a well-educated confident teenager. It is always a privilege for me to see the difference a good education makes to these young people when I visit, and watch them grow in confidence throughout their time at the school.
On my last visit in 2019 we took a parachute with us, and although Abu looked ‘too cool for school’ as a teenager in his ‘shades’, he enjoyed joining in the parachute games, as seen above.
Now he has left school and as I said is in a Senior secondary school, where his important beginning at the New Life Centre school has laid the foundations for a life better than his parents could ever have imagined for their children, thanks to Alindra.
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The New Life Centre school has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, but Mr Naskar and his dedicated staff have kept in contact with the older school children either through their phones or by hard copies of work. This has been no mean feat in an area which is isolated and prone to flooding.
Priority has been given to the older schoolchildren, particularly Class X pictured above who were in school briefly to prepare for their Board exam, the equivalent of our GCSEs. Initially the Government hoped to hold the exams, but in the end they were assessed from their Class IX exams in school.
Nilima on the right of the photo below has been at the school for nine years, and has always worked hard and obtained high marks in her work. Nilima scored the top result in her year group, 87%, outstanding for her year. Nilima’s father is a tailor and has a small plot of land for their personal needs, but as with most of the families in the school this tends to be a subsistence living. Nilima has been sponsored throughout her time at the school through Hands Around the World, and the benefits are clear to see.
Nilima is ambitious and wants to become an English teacher after completing Sixth form studies then University. She has expressed her desire to return to the school in the future as an English teacher, in appreciation of the education she received.
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As you will be aware the past few weeks have been disastrous in India with the combination of a fraught General Election (especially in West Bengal where the school is), and mass rallies which contributed to the spread of the Covid virus.
I have been in touch with Alindra regularly to offer support and a listening ear, which is all I can do in these circumstances. The fact that the School and the Vocational training centre are in an isolated area has been up to now a source of frustration for accessing help and Government support, but it has proved to be a blessing now. The green status of Sarberia, i.e. Covid free has been encouraging but I heard today that the virus has now spread to this very rural area. While the upper school and Vocational Training Centre had reopened briefly, it appears that the school has now reverted to online learning.
As always, Alindra remains positive and his medical background, as he trained in prosthetic medicine for Leprosy sufferers, ensures that he is meticulous in health and hygiene for himself and those under his care. So far the staff and students of the New Life Centre have remained safe.
Medical professionals across the globe have put their lives on the line, and far too many have paid the ultimate price. Alindra is one of these as he continues to ensure that the staff are in touch with the students as much as is feasible and that learning is at the heart of his daily life.
This man of the people never rests in his quest to help the poorest of the poor. Whilst some of us look forward to a retirement where we can cultivate our interests, Alindra expands his vision so that no one on his watch will go hungry or fail to secure a place in his school. The photo is from a visit in happier times.
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