The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!

by Lotus Outreach
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The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!

India was hit hard by a second wave of Covid in 2021. Schools closed in late April, with cases soaring in both urban and rural areas. This past year saw 270 million students in India out of school for over a year due to Covid related school closures in 2020 and 2021. Students from lower income families suffered the most with lack of access to online learning and other at home learning resources. 

Schools in Haryana, where Blossom Bus operates, finally started reopening at 50% capacity in mid July.  It was crucial that we resume bus operations promptly, to ensure that those who wanted to be in school would be able to get there. Currently,  Blossom Bus serves 565 girls including 40 young women enrolled in college. All students are attending school on a rotation basis, (50% capacity each day) to allow for social distancing measures in class. Even through tremendous challenges faced throughout the pandemic, we saw students and their families remain committed to educational goals and we are happy to report that there were no Blossom Bus dropouts during the second wave. We hope to support the young women and girls that ride BB even in the event of further school closures and lockdowns, to ensure that access to education is always an option.

We are so happy to partner with Kapadia Foundation in expanding Blossom Bus to College students. Staff on the ground in India recently had the opportunity to meet with some of the students who are a part of this program. Many of these girls are the first in their families and communities to get an education, graduate high school, let alone go on to pursue tertiary education and careers. They are driven young women who are inspiring change in their friends, sisters and communities. Hemlata is one of the students riding the Blossom Bus into her second year of college. 

Hemlata is 19 years old, pursing her Bachelor of Arts from a women’s college in Palwal, Haryana. Neither of Hemlata’s parents went to school. Her father Omveer, is a farmer and her mother Chandra Dev takes care of the home. She has two brothers, her older brother is a police constable and her younger one is studying in grade 12. 

Hemlata helps her father in the fields during the days she hasn't been attending school. She says she enjoys the work and no one else in the family is able to help out as her elder brother is employed and her younger brother is focused on studies. Her mother is unable to stand as she has a bad leg. Hemlata finds time for schoolwork at night, when she says there’s no disturbance and she can focus on her work in peace.

Hemlata says in the beginning, it was hard to convince her parents that she wanted to go to college. Her father was surprised that she wanted to pursue higher education, but when she pointed to other girls she knew who were going to college he agreed to consider. She said ultimately it was her brother who convinced her father to let her go to college. “Now he has full confidence in me and is excited to see me setting an example for other girls in the family.”

She said she is the first girl in her family to get so far with her studies and that she hopes to become a high level police officer and then help her village. “My father said ‘I am giving you an opportunity to do something for yourself and it's now in your hands to make me proud or let me down.’ My father’s words mean a lot to me and I want to prove myself by doing well in my exams and with my studies.”

We are honored to support girls like Hemlata in breaking down barriers and reaching for their dreams. In these challenging times, thank you for supporting Blossom Bus and Lotus Outreach. 

 

Empowerment is the heart of sustainable change.

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Sangeeta and Priya are in 11th grade at Solara Secondary School and traveling together on Blossom Bus for the past two years. They live in Bholara, a remote village in Palwal District of Haryana.

Sangeeta is 19 years old and has been traveling to school on the Blossom Bus for two years. She is a topper in her class of 35 students. Before the bus came to her village, Sangeeta had no choice but to walk to school. “Walking to school in the heat of summer, during heavy rains and especially in winter, when the fog is so thick you can’t see where you are going, made it very difficult to attend school regularly and I missed 4 and 5 days a month. Since getting on the bus I am able to attend school every day and I’m now standing 1st in my class! My favorite subject is history. After high school I want to complete college and work as a history teacher.”

Sangeeta’s parents are very dedicated to their children’s education. They are both totally illiterate, working as farm labor and without any land of their own but have managed to ensure high school education for their five children. Sangeeta is the youngest.

Her dad Krishan tells us, “We have to work very hard to educate our children and we don’t ask Sangeeta to do any housework so she can focus on studying.”Her mother Sukhavati added “I feel very ashamed that I am totally illiterate and never went to school a single day. I don’t want my children to have the life I have and am very happy they are all getting educated.”

. . . 

Priya, a first cousin to Sangeeta has also been traveling on Blossom Bus for almost two years. She is third in her class out of thirty five students. Priya and her family live in a small village, 30 kms from Palwal, Haryana. She tells us, “traveling on the bus is very enjoyable as we get to chat up with friends and it’s a relief that we don’t have to face daily harassment from boys on the road and in the fields. It's also very exhausting walking to school and back in the heat of summer and rainy season, when our clothes become filthy with dust and mud every day.” 

Her father stressed the challenges of living in a remote area:“Girls safety in these parts is a big issue. There are many [dangers] waiting to ambush girls on their to and from school. They pass remarks and try to get physical with them. There is a real danger of attack which was a big worry for us while our girls had to walk to school. We are now very happy and relaxed as the bus is like a steel safe so they go and come back safely every day.”

Two of Priya’s siblings are already studying in college, a boy doing 2nd year BSc and a girl in her first year doing B.Arts. After completing year twelve in the coming year, Priya will be the third first generation learner in their household to graduate high school and pursue a college degree.   

. . .

We are so happy to see families like Priya and Sangeeta’s who are uncompromising in their children’s education and we are honored to be able to support their success.

Thank you for ensuring access to education through Blossom Bus. 

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The Government Girls’ High School in Aharwan, Haryana has a newly appointed principal who noted specially the positive impact that Blossom Bus has had at the school. Mrs. Renu, the principal, admitted that she was nervous when she was assigned to the school in Aharwan, as it is in a very rural location, about 75 kilometers from her home in Gurgaon. However, when she arrived at the school, she was greeted by the sight of several Blossom Busses in the parking lot, and was told that the busses offer free transportation to girls from several surrounding villages, making it possible for them to attend school. Mrs. Renu was touched by the impact that the Blossom Bus had had on the school and felt encouraged by the efforts of Lotus Outreach at Aharwan.

Mrs. Renu feels that the presence of Blossom Bus has improved the school as a whole, by ensuring that more girls from nearby communities are able to attend. She believes that Blossom Bus has given Aharwan a good name and she is happy to be a part of this school where girls are studying in a safe, supportive and comfortable environment. 

Madhu and Kajal from village Bichpuri

After an irregular and challenging year, schools in Haryana are open for girls in grade 10 and 12, who have to prepare for their board exams. Madhu and Kajal are from village Bichpuri and attend the Government Girls’ School in Aharwan. They were not able to attend online classes as they do not have smartphones or access to laptops. Though the lack of technology in these rural areas was raised as an issue to the local authorities, and there was some discussion on providing students with tablets for online learning, the government ultimately decided it was too high a cost to provide tablets to students. Thus, with schools closed from March through October, preparation for these important exams was put on hold, and many of the girls felt that this year would be wasted if they were unable to pass. Furthermore, for girls like Madhu and Kajal, their families are unlikely to support them repeating an entire year if they were to fail the examinations, meaning they would have to drop out and find work or be married off. 

With schools reopening, however, Madhu and Kajal are feeling hopeful. Currently, only 10th and 12th graders are attending school, so all the teacher’s attention is on helping the girls prepare for and pass these crucial exams. With enough support and determination, the girls feel that they can pass and continue forward to Senior Secondary School, and into their futures.

 

Thank you for supporting girls’ access to education through the Blossom Bus.

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Today, we share two case studies from our Blossom Bus scholars who recently took their Board Exams, Indian public exams held after completion of tenth and twelfth grade. Scores on these exams are hugely important and can determine what a student’s future may look like finishing high school and beyond.

Manisha, from village Hurithal, is studying in grade 11 at Girls High School Hathin, and has been riding the Blossom Bus for one year. She has two brothers and three sisters. There is a high school in her village but the quality of education at the school is not good and Manisha believed attending it was a waste of time. Manisha had not given up and was determined to get an education when she found out about Blossom Bus, which would allow her to go to school in nearby Hathin.

Manisha passed her Board Exams this year, which she believes was only possible with the education she has gotten in Hathin. When schools closed in March due to Covid-19, her school arranged online classes. Manisha says that teachers send homework through WhatsApp, she does the work and sends it back to the teacher, who then provides feedback. She is not happy with online classes as she does not get the opportunity to interact with the teacher and if she has some trouble with lesson content, she has little support. Furthermore, teachers can sometimes be too busy to answer each individual student’s questions and sometimes her questions remain unanswered.

Her Father works at a Sweets Shop at Hathin village and is happy that his daughter is attending school and will be able to complete her education till grade 12 due to the safe and reliable mode of transport provided White Lotus Trust. Manisha and her father are sure that she would have dropped out and would be married by now if there was no Blossom Bus. They look forward to when schools reopen and the Blossom Bus starts up again!

 

Manisha from village Swamika joined Blossom Bus in 2019 to attend high school in Hathin. She gives thanks to Blossom Bus after passing her Board Exams this year and graduating into grade 11. There is no high school in Manisha’s village and she is certain that she would not have been able to pass the Board Exams if Blossom Bus had not provided her with safe and reliable transportation to school in Hathin.

Mainsha had joined the Hathin Girls High School in grade nine, two years ago, but had no way to reach school. She was determined to continue her education and even with the support of her father, was only managing to attend school 2 to 3 days a week. With this low rate of attendance, Manisha had little hope for being able to pass her board exams, which demand school presence and intense studies. She was planning to drop out, when she heard about Blossom Bus from her classmates and teachers in the school. Teachers and the School Principal encouraged her to apply for Blossom Bus and to everyone’s great joy, she got a seat.

Manisha will be the first girl in her family to complete a high school education. With her parents’ support and some assistance from Blossom Bus, she hopes to move on to College after high school and exceed the expectations of her family and community.

 

Thank you for your support. Without Blossom Bus these intelligent and inspiring young women would likely not get an education- it is a great honor to be able to foster the light of education in these communities. We believe that educating girls transforms communities.

Manisha from Hurithal
Manisha from Hurithal
Manisha from Swamika
Manisha from Swamika
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Since our last update, the world as a whole has faced very difficult circumstances. In India, where the Blossom Bus program operates, there is a strict lockdown in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Schools have remained closed since the second week of March due to the current COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown.

Anticipating a long lockdown, the government of Haryana started online classes for all students in grades 1 through 12 beginning in the second week of April. Classes are being telecasted daily for two hours through TV channels. School teachers have also created WhatsApp groups and are able to support students when they need help. The school teachers have stated that classes are running smoothly and are being supervised by an education officer of the precinct where the Blossom Bus girls study. The education officer appreciated our contacting him and said that he is getting messages from students even late at night and answering them with pleasure and pride.

While these remote classes are far from perfect under the difficult circumstances of the current lockdown, we are happy to know the children's studies are continuing and that teachers are committed to these new ways of learning. We are reminded of the old saying "necessity is the mother of invention" as now, out of necessity, even in the rural villages of India, technology can be used and online education is possible. We thank the government of Haryana for this initiative on behalf of students and we hope and pray things will get back to normal as soon as possible.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, 650 girls from 37 rural villages in Mewat, Haryana were able to achieve an average of 90% attendance due to Lotus Outreach’s Blossom Bus program. There has been significant increases in the number of girls attending the seven high schools served by Blossom Bus. We take heart in witnessing the visible impact of the program for these students.

 

Thank you for supporting access to education today and every day. 

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Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
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Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Maya Norbu
Ojai, CA United States
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