Back to School in India
As children across the UK return to school this week, we reflect on the stories of sponsored children living in countries where something we take for granted is far from certain. World Vision believes that primary education is both a basic right of every child, and the surest way to help a poor community lift itself out of poverty. But in the world’s poorest areas, education is often overlooked.
Across the UK, schoolchildren are going back to school today and tomorrow. It’s a familiar ritual of new shoes and school uniforms that most children will repeat every year from the age of four to 18. However, in many of the countries where World Vision works, most children cannot count on so many years of schooling, or even on going to school at all. World Vision child sponsorship helps ensure that children can go to school, and that their parents and community supports them both emotionally, and with physical needs like school uniforms, healthy balanced meals, and access to health care and clean water.
When Jhumri was eight years old, she was playing with her friends outside when a truck hit her and knocked her down. When she fell to the ground her head was seriously injured, and her optical nerve had been cut. Within a few weeks she had lost her sight, and with it, her hope of completing her education.
A few months after her accident, Jhumri was selected for a camp for the visually impaired.
“We were taught how to be independent, how to catch a train, get on and off the train by ourselves, catch a bus and get on and off a bus and eventually find our own way back to our houses. It was adventurous and a lot of fun,” said Jhumri, the excitement of her experience evident in her expression.
With her confidence and hope restored, Jhumri enrolled in Braille school and learnt Braille for two years. After graduating from Braille school she was able to return to a regular school to continue her education.
To help her learn, World Vision gave her a recording device and a Braille typewriter. “Braille books are available only till class seven. After that I had to learn only from the recordings. My sister reads and records all my lessons, I listen to it and remember whatever I can,” says Jhumri.
Today Jhumri has triumphed over the odds to become confident and independent, and at just fifteen years old has become a voice for other children in similar situations. Jhumri’s enthusiasm and her quest to learn have seen her join World Vision India’s forums for the disabled. She is an empathetic counsellor and has gradually become a strong voice for the rights of children with disabilities.
Pooja is twelve years old and in Year 7 at school. She lives with her parents in Patna, India. A few
years ago her parents were struggling to take care of her, and her mother’s declining health meant that Pooja had to drop out of school to help at home and take care of her Mum, Tara.
With the help of World Vision, Pooja’s Mum and Dad have been able to open a small shop where they sell small quantities of groceries, snacks and chocolates, and earn enough to send Pooja back to school. “We open the shop at 6. My husband and I manage the shop,” explains Tara. The sponsorship programme in Patna has also helped Tara receive treatment for her health. “Now my health is better. I am taking fewer medicine,” Tara describes.
With her mother’s health becoming better and improved finances at home, Pooja was able to go back to school after a year. “I have joined class seven this year.” Pooja smiles. Sponsors have also provided her with school supplies, including a schoolbag and notebooks. Science is Pooja’s favourite subject, and after her experience caring for her Mum she hopes to one day become a doctor.
Education for the future
In addition to sponsorship, World Vision UK has been able to fund an intensive education project in Patna to help ensure that stories like Pooja’s and Jhumri’s become the norm.
The project has already helped to establish nine after school and intensive help centres. They are currently helping 485 primary-aged children, and working with eleven pupils who had dropped out of education altogether. 120 community members have also taken part in a training to learn about children’s right to education. Sponsors’ generosity has helped supply desks and chairs, library books and stationery supplies to schools and education centres, improving the learning experience for children.
Thanks to the children’s amazing passion for learning they have all made incredible progress and will hopefully soon be admitted back into the ordinary primary education system. One day soon, perhaps these children may even take school as a given, just as children do in England today.