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India: Education, education, education

Quick tonight, I’m absolutely knackered. Been another intense day, but a real eye opener! Visited a school in a Muslim dominated area, and that’s when I made my first bobo.

Very politely I was told my t-shirt was too skimpy, (luckily before we arrived) and I was mortified that I might have so inadvertently caused offense. It was not low cut, but was quite tight and had fairly short sleeves, so showing too much white arm. Luckily I had a change of t-shirt. The project team here has worked so hard with the villagers to encourage girls to go to school, and to understand the importance of education, I was very aware that we could easily undo such a lot of the progress they have made by offending in our ignorance.

The school greeted us with the presentation of a head scarf (Lubri) which was wonderful and many of the villagers and children had assembled to greet us in the school. The children today are Muslim and are much more shy, and holding back from us.

The villagers were very vocal about their right to have free and quality education, as set out in the government education act. This also specifies there should be one teacher to every 30 children. But what good is a statute like that when no-one does anything to make it happen? This school has 2 teachers to 153 pupils. There is no female teacher so the families will not send their girls to school.

The school management committee are demanding extra teachers, a toilet and running water for the school. They have organised a meeting with the government official to try and get the changes they want. They would also like a secondary school, as the nearest one is 10km away and the children would have to cross a river to get there, and this is dangerous in the rainy season.

“We are not begging!”

We visited a committee of children in another village. They were chanting: “It is our right, we are not begging. Education is our right, we will fight for it!” They spoke about how they wanted a good teacher who did not beat them. We heard of one school where there were 340 pupils to one teacher. Can you imagine that? I moan having to teach 25, it must be impossible!

But even with the poor quality that they are getting the collective also ensures all the children in the village attend, and will visit houses to find out why their child was not in school. It was so powerful to hear the children demanding their rights to education. This was a real eye opener for me, when the kids at home would like nothing better than not to attend school.

The fund are paying someone to support all these groups, to inform them of their rights and help them advocate for their cause. 

The villages were about three and a half hours from Jaipur, so we had a very interesting journey. The local taxi service in this part are jeeps. We counted 22 in one jeep. Some passengers were holding on the back and others sat on the roof. Apparently 40 would not be unusual. Livestock wanders over the lanes to add a little interest. Coming back tonight we found a black cow in our lane.

The traffic thing is an endless source of fascination, and I can add it to my obsessions with toilets and cows. Mmmm, the toilet thing …interesting today…. on second thoughts I’m not sure I’m going to share that one with you. It’ll be one of those embarrassing stories I’lll share when I’ve had a liitle too much to drink!

To Mumbai tomorrow, what will await us there?

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