Education
 India
Project #6889

Help disadvantaged Bengali children + young people

by HANDS AROUND THE WORLD
Vetted

My cousin’s Primary school in Eccles near Manchester recently did a sponsored walk for the New Life Centre school in Sarberia, West Bengal. The students worked out that the height of Mount Everest was equivalent to 10 kilometres, and so they planned a 10K track around the playground.

They raised £1200, which is the most they have ever raised before in their fundraising activities, because they were able to empathise with their fellow students in West Bengal. Despite very different environments and home backgrounds, the children in Eccles were captivated by the personal stories of the students in Sarberia - such as the boy who was left abandoned in a tea shop in the village and was adopted by a poor farmer and his wife. This boy started at the New Life Centre school when he was 4 years old and he has just passed his Board Exam (National Standard for 15+ year olds) with flying colours and is destined for a bright future!

Education changes lives in West Bengal, as it does in this country, but we don’t tend to think of it in those stark terms. This boy will be the first of his adopted family to have the opportunity to work somewhere other than tending the fields, a subsistence living. When you are given the opportunity not only to change your work, but expand your horizons, who knows where you could end up?

This is the story of the founder of the New Life Centre school, Alindra Naskar. Here he is seen in the playground of the school. Alindra was educated with the help of a local priest. His ‘lucky break’ has multiplied in kind.

If Alindra’s educational break can result in educating a whole village, what will the students of the New Life Centre school achieve in their lifetimes?

Thank you to the children and staff at Holy Cross and All Saints school in Eccles.

Wouldn’t you like to be involved in this educational success story?

I have written before about the special qualities of the New Life Centre school Sports day, which has just been held again in February.
This photo shows the bicycle race which involves cycling the slowest you possibly can as the slowest wins, and the photo below involves the younger children running to where their shoes and socks are, putting them on and then completing the race.
As you can imagine, both are amusing to watch, and when I have attended Sports days in the past, I have joined in with the parents in their fun.
It strikes me each time that I visit the school that there is a lot of fun in learning, which is a great combination.

What makes education relevant for these children, whose parents are barely literate, is the enjoyment they get from it. This has been an uphill struggle for Alindra Naskar to convince the disadvantaged community in Sarberia that education is worthwhile.
We all take this for granted in the West, because it has been a long held belief, but imagine if you have never known how liberating education can be, and are only fearful of what might happen?
In these seemingly frivolous races the parents are amused and laugh openly with their children, realising that there is nothing fearful about this establishment, where the teachers join in the fun, and the children are obviously pleased to be there.


The prize giving as seen here (below) shows the winner of the race receiving her prize - a bowl for eating! I always try to imagine what one of our children would do if they received such a prize at their Sports day?
Once again Alindra wins over the parents with these practical medals in his mission to educate both the parents and children of this area.

Wouldn’t you like to help more children enjoy their precious time at school? 

Some of the lovely Children
Some of the lovely Children

On one of my visits to the New Life Centre School in West Bengal, I had an interesting conversation with one of the staff members who is a Hindu.


It was November and we were talking about my return to the UK at the beginning of December and Christmas in the UK. He asked me what my family did at Christmas and I explained about going to Church on Christmas morning.
‘I like that too’ he exclaimed to my surprise. ‘You go to your Temple?’ I asked feeling ignorant of Hindu rituals. ‘No’, he replied ‘we go to the Christian Church here and wait for the people who are in the service and then we have a picnic together’.


'How enlightened' I thought, the true meaning of Christmas where inter-faith communities celebrate together and respect each other’s rituals.


The school is thriving because of this ideal. In the face of a child, Alindra Naskar, the Director of the school does not see difference but equality and respect. In this rural area which is poor and the majority of the adult population are illiterate, the New Life Centre School is making a profound impact.


A child was born on Christmas day with no sense of privilege or entitlement, poorer than most. It is for all those children that the New Life Centre School exists.


Wouldn’t you want to put a smile on all the faces of these disadvantaged children?

Anupam
Anupam

The New Life Centre school was awarded Secondary status from the Indian government in February this year. This will change the lives of the children who attend the school forever! They will be able to stay on until they are 16 and take the compulsory Board exam which all students at school in India have to sit.

The big difference will be that whereas in the local Government schools 90% of the children fail this exam, we are confident that with the high standard in this school the students will pass and then have the opportunity to go further in higher education.

For this reason the school is desperate for more classrooms, as more children will stay on, confident of a brighter future.

Alindra Naskar the principal writes: "This is a co-educational School, so the Boys and Girls can grow up with equal opportunity. They are in no way less intelligent than city children; opportunities for them however are limited.

I am narrating about a boy and a girl among many of our children as examples.

ANUPAM N - He was an abandoned boy brought up by a poor farmer and began in our school from the age of 4 years. We took full responsibility for him and now he is 15+ preparing for Secondary Board exams in 2016 February. He secured 75% and above marks in every class throughout the years.

MASUMA K - She comes from a poor family, started schooling from the age of 4 years. Now she is 14+, studying in class-IX, and will appear in Secondary Board Exams in 2017 February. She also obtained around 70% marks in every class so far.

There are many other promising children like them to sign up in life provided they have the opportunity and their parents are constantly motivated to bring change in life.

Our aim is to provide them a better educational environment with more ideal class rooms and up-dated study materials.
My personal appeal to you is - please help to grow this school up to college level and we will be able to help many children of this rural community, give them a purpose in life and ultimately they will bring change in their own society.

Thank you so much for your help."

You can read more here:

http://hatw.org.uk/2015/09/29/please-help-us-grow-a-wonderful-school/

Masuma
Masuma

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.

The Buildings in 2015
The Buildings in 2015
 

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Organization Information

HANDS AROUND THE WORLD

Location: MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.hatw.org.uk
Project Leader:
David Steiner
Executive Officer
Monmouth, Monmouthshire United Kingdom

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