Chaina Mahato, Headmistress
The primary school teaches local children in English, Bengali, Mathematics and General Studies, from levels Nursery to Class V. In all there are approximately 250 students. We employ six teaching and five non-teaching staff. The teachers are all local people, qualified and experienced in education. They are committed to their chosen vocation, their students and their community. Staff make regular visits to the family homes to help with problems and review progress.
Classes are free to the children of poor, local families from the six villages we serve. Classes run from 7am to 10 am, six days a week. Besides the teaching we also provide warm clothes, pens, pencils, copy books and free medical treatment.
For around half of the children, the classes supplement the instruction they get at the normal state school. Most of the pupils come from low caste, poor or otherwise estranged families.
By coming to our school they receive additional tutoring in a classroom setting which is deliberately set in line with that which they experience at their normal state school. Their families cannot afford to pay for any of the extra, individual tutoring that is available to the better off.
We aim improve their academic performance, which will build their self-confidence and help them get on better at the state school, where other children often shun them.
For many others, again approximately half of the children, our classes are the only education they get. Some are girls who have to stay at home to do housework and to take care of their brothers and sisters. Typically the families are of low caste, poor and there is only one parent or both parents have to go out each day in order to try and make ends meet.
Most of these other children come from Loharsol, the Snake Village. They would otherwise not attend any school at all so they might be simply wandering about aimlessly during the day. They are very much afraid of children from other communities and castes. We make a special effort to provide for them because their families are so estranged from the rest of society. We provide two rickshaws as transport and try to help with any financial obstacles to their coming.
It usually takes some persuasion to bring these girls and the children from the snake village into the school. We don’t find it easy. It generally takes a year to overcome the misgivings expressed by a family, to convince them that their children really could benefit from coming to class.
Our thinking is, if we can improve these children’s basic education then it will help at the same time both to improve their academic results and also to overcome their overwhelming sense of inferiority. By boosting their basic skills in reading, writing and arithmetic, individuals of this new generation will have the tools to do better than they would otherwise.
For example, English language skills are particularly important in multilingual India. So if our children develop the ability to read, write and speak English competently, they will both expand their horizons and also enhance their job prospects. And, using their greater self-confidence, the children will have the tools to try make their own personal lives a little better, to the benefit of themselves individually and also their families and communities.