This update comes from Sunil Kumar (not his real name which we have changed for child protection reasons).
"Namaste to everybody!!.
You may have seen my story on the Rescue Junction video on the website, for many reasons I do not want to go home and it is not possible I think for ever.
But I am very happy here at my school. My favourite subject is English. Here our teachers really care for us and I love to learn. We get good food and I do not feel that my future will be bad anymore I feel I am lucky i can get such an education because of People First and I will be OK in my life now. It has been explained to me and many other children too how people help us by giving us help and a wonderful chance to be so lucky and we are fortunate to have people care for us.
I study in class two.
With the other children I want to thank you so much for thinking of us".
Sunil is studying full time at a residential school on a People First Scholarship. His letter was translated from Hindi but is unedited
Help us support more children like Sunil and give them a bright future!
Greetings- to all our supporters from Bihar, here in India.
I wanted to say in this report how much we welcome any progress in the field of education, and indeed there has been some here in Bihar and the government deserves credit. As an NGO we do not wish to justify our own existence and where significant improvements have been made in the villages regarding education we have discontinued our work because with our very limited resources we can only work in the areas of very real and greatest need. That said claims of close to 100% attendance by children to government schools are in our experience to be taken with a pinch of salt, or perhaps as the following article illustrates perhaps a truckload,
Patna, Feb. 11: The detection of fraudulent enrollments in government schools in Bihar appears to have put a brake on welfare schemes.
The much-flaunted bicycles, uniforms and mid-day meals seem to have disappeared from many schools. The number of students attending school has also slumped. “The actual number of fraudulent enrollment cases will be very small. There are a larger number of children who have taken admission but are not coming to school. They may be called dropouts,” said principal secretary, education, Anjani Kumar Singh.
The district education officers have been directed to check the attendance of students for at least six months before the cycles and uniforms are distributed. The attendance for mid-day meals monitored by the headquarters shows 55 per cent of the enrollment number. “We are hoping to increase the attendance to at least 70 per cent,” Singh added.
However, the impact of the “enrollment scam”, which the state government is trying to underplay, is being felt at the grassroots.
In Bhagalpur for example, Arun Kumar (name changed), who promised two friends he would get them bicycles from a government school, failed to keep his pledge after the education department sounded the alarm following detection of fake enrollments in the institution. The bicycle has now become a scarce commodity.
A native of Aliganj locality in the city and a former student of Jaglal High School, Bhagalpur, Arun (17) said he took admission in the Zilla School in 2008 in Class IX and obtained Rs 2,000 from the institution for purchasing a bicycle. “Some of my friends helped me as I had to spend Rs 250 for taking admission and preparing some fake documents,” he revealed.
Ravi, 20, (name changed), a friend of Arun, said his father “managed” two bicycles for his sister, Anita, one from the local Mokshada Girls’ High School and another from the Government Girls’ School, Bhagalpur, in 2009, after simultaneously enrolling her name in both institutions. In reality, Anita never attended either school. “My father sold the cycles and spent the money drinking,” Ravi disclosed.
Sources in the education department said more than 1,500 students, like Bhagalpur’s Arun, who became the beneficiaries of “Nitish Kumar’s free bicycle scheme”, have stopped coming to schools after getting the bicycles.
This startling fact came to light about a month ago when the local education department authorities scanned admission lists for classes IX and X on the basis of the transfer certificates issued by high schools in Bhagalpur. “At that time we had 500 such cases where by virtue of the fake transfer certificates, the students enrolled in schools just to become beneficiaries of the bicycle scheme,” an officer of the education department said.
Till now, 1,144 cases of fake enrolments have been scanned by the education department in 85 of 110 government high schools in Bhagalpur district. The newly established Zilla School (set up at Khirnighat in 2006 to counter the rush of students at the Zilla School in Bhagalpur) wears a deserted look. “The school has 39 rooms and 39 students. After instructions from the education department to verify the school transfer certificates properly for admission-seekers, the students have virtually stopped coming for taking admission,” said headmaster Hari Jha.
Of the 170 students enrolled in this school (2009-10), 141 were found to have submitted fake certificates.
Jai Chandra Srivastava, district education officer, Bhagalpur, who suspects that such fraudulent practices started from 2007 onwards, said the department has started scanning students who enrolled themselves from 2007 and dropped out after taking the bicycles.
The situation is the same in other districts. Khamzadpur Primary School, located in Minapur block of Muzaffarpur district, is in the news for the past three to four months. Villagers of Khamzadpur are up in arms against the teachers who, they alleged, played truant and denied mid-day meals to the students. “For the last three months, the students have not been served a single meal,” said villager Mohammad Mustafa Rahi, who alleged that the teachers regularly remained absent from school. The school has 155 students. However, after the mid-day meals stopped, less than a third of the students attend school.
Headmaster Harendra Ram admitted that mid-day meals were not being served to students because of non-availability of funds. “It is difficult to prepare meals for students in a sleepy hamlet,” Ram said, adding that he has written to the department concerned to allocate funds in view of the agitation of the villagers.
Fake admission, forged attendances and above all anomalies in plundering government benefits in a tacit understanding of teachers with villagers and officials of the education department, including members of Panchayati Raj Institution, go side by side in the district. This came to the fore when a high-level team of the human resource department headed by the district education officer, R.N. Sharma, stumbled upon the racket of fake admissions during a month-long investigation.
Muzaffarpur district magistrate Santosh Kumar Mall told The Telegraph that investigations were on to purge the schools of fake admissions and other anomalies. The district administration has so far detected 33,730 fake admissions in primary, middle and secondary schools.
The primary school at Billound Harijan tola under Arama panchayat of Wazirganj block, Gaya, around 30km from the district headquarters, is a glaring example of the irregularities in government-sponsored schemes like mid-day meals and the money being provided to the students for school uniforms. Till November 2011, 303 students were enrolled in the school, which at present has been reduced to only 152.
Names of as many as 151 students, almost 50 per cent of the earlier strength of enrollment, have been deleted from the attendance register. The teachers present at the school said the students have migrated elsewhere. The parents of these children have moved to other states to work in brick kilns, the teachers said. The names of students have been deleted from the attendance register following a direction by the authorities of the district education department
We have included this article in this progress report to illustrate that we will continue to help children receive an education they would otherwise not receive for as long as we are needed. As you know this appeal directly helps the most academically gifted youngsters from our village schools achieve the highest education possible, something which without your help is totally out of their reach and beyond their wildest dreams. We will return to personal inspiring stories in the students own words in our next update. In the meantime may we express our thanks for your support and please follow us on Face Book at www.facebook.com/pages/People-First-India/106083302779969
Thank you All,
Thank you for your continuing support.
For all of India’s emergence as an economic power the State of Bihar has double the number of people living in extreme poverty than in the whole of Ethiopia. ( Source Department of International development UK)
Your support is very much needed to change these young peoples lives. Here is a letter for you all,
My name is Santosh and I want to say hello and thank you to you all.
I am a CAPS student and I am living in Delhi studying Spanish. I also get to meet and greet official visitors to People First in Delhi and brush up on my English! I cannot tell you enough how much I realise how very lucky I am to get this chance due to a People First Scholarship.
My family is very poor and were unable to provide with me with a good education and there was only the People First School which offered hope to children like me.
But I want to make my parents proud. Education is not an option for me. It is everything. My life. I will be able to help my whole family in the future.
Without it I cannot have any future and my family who work as hard as they can, will still remain in poverty. Here in Bihar India the minimum wage is just $2.00 or £1.50 a day.
Please help students like me achieve everything beyond our wildest dreams. A decent life ,and an escape from poverty for ever.
Hi Supporters and friends!
Time for another update.
First my I express on behalf of our children our hearfelt appreciation for your donations for this important project.
You will have seen personal testimonies from children, explaining how the programme has given them opportunuities they never dreamed possible.
But what exactly is the CAPS scheme , How does it work?
I thought I would use this update to clarify how the scheme works to bring a better understanding of the reach and effects of the project.
Ok, as you probably know CAPS means Children's Academic Personal Scholarships. But children from where? How are they selected? How much assistance do you give?
The aims of CAPS is very close to the mission statement of the Trust, which is,
"Our mission is the bringing of educational opportunity and to promote health and social rights to those to whom such opportunities have previously been denied to poverty family circumstances or oppression".
CAPS does this one child at a time.
It has several different strands.
Education of the Girl Child
Promoting the education of girls by offering fully paid sponsorship to girls living in the local community from very economically disadvantaged backgrounds to enable them to complete their education
A chance for college
Supporting exceptionally bright students through college and University
A residential school scholarship.
Offering a fantastic chance to very bright students from our village school to complete their education to school leaving examination level at class 10.
Students are selected by a panel of teachers, our education director and a former CAPS student. It is a competitive programme, only the very best can secure a CAPS place. Parents are involved in the process.
Ex CAPS students have gone on to be policeman, bank employees, office workers and translators. It has to be remembered, these are children who come from extremely poor backgrounds , living in mud dwellings and who could not even afford a pair of sandals, who had no possessions at all. On employment they voluntarily give 10% of their earnings back into the scheme as a donation in order to help others.
Thank you for helping them
I am very happy to help write this update for Global Giving with the help of Mr Naresh Kumar the education director of People First.
I come from a small village where there is no electricity school or doctor, but in the next village People First ran a school and when I had finished my chores in the morning I went there to learn.
The school taught the children a song which had the words," I will help with the animals and in the field every day but please let me go to school to learn" I used to sing it to my family.
At night I would do extra studies by the light of a wick lantern.
Soon I was passing my exams in the first position and was recommended by my principal to try for a place on the People First Childrens Academic Personal Scholarship (CAPS) scheme.
My family is very poor we cannot even afford a tile roof so the straw gets damp in the rains, so the chance to go to a private school for a full time residential education was beyond the wildest dreams and hopes for my family.
I was lucky and I got selected, after quite a long process, and two years ago I chose to go to a private school in Bodhgaya, where I study in Class Seven
I want to help my family, I want then to try and use my education to help others. I have the good fortune to be the first in my family to be able to say " I am educated and ready for a whole new future"
This update was based on a series of Interviews with Pinto and some written material translated from Hindi.
Your support really does change lives tremendously,
And Pintos story is quite typical of the CAPS students
Thanks for all your help,
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Project Liason Officer
Dhobi Gaya Rd Bodhgaya,