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Jaipur and Mumbai – land of contrasts

We travelled for 4 hours north of Jaipur (half way back to Delhi) to visit a school in a Muslim community. There had been a school previously in vhe village but the quality of education was not good and when the teacher left it closed.

But with the help of a local organisation and Save the Children, and the willingness of the community, they re-opened it and they now have 150 pupils. But only 1 teacher. This is a problem with educating girls because they should have a female teacher. Their wish list includes:

  • more teachers, including a woman
  • an Urdu teacher who speaks their own language
  • a toilet, especially for the girls, as at puberty they have to be taught separately from the boys.

Since the Education Act of 2009, everyone in the community, including the children, know their rights to education – all children from 6-14 years of age have a right to an education. I felt that the school will get what they need as they are so determined. We then went back to the NGO office and met with so many of their community leaders and the school management committee who told us their hopes and some of the problems they face. We then faced a 4 hour drive back to Jaipur – exhausting.

On Friday we flew to Mumbai to visit a school for children with learning difficulties. This was housed in a huge building that contains many other schools.  Save the Children funds and pays for the teacher and headmistress. The school was beautifully decorated with learning aids. Many of the children have severe difficulties and are taught in 2 classes. There are about 15 children in each class. The less disabled children are preparing for an exam, with the hope that some may pass it.

We joined in a maths lesson and I helped the group weighing and measuring themselves. Later, the parents came to meet us, dressed in their finest and told us of their hopes and desires for their children and the school. Mainly they would like another teacher and some helpers: speech therapists and an occupational therapist. They also need a disabled toilet and a ramp, (the school currently has a flight of stairs). The parents would also like to have music lessons for their children — one mother said her son loves the drums! They also do some vocational training, making garlands etc, which are then sold to raise money for the school. I felt it was very inspiring, as so many places do not cater for disabled children.

Today we visited a slum on a garbage dump. Yes, a garbage dump. It was huge, with so many people living in appalling conditions. They collect rubbish from the dump to sell. I’m fortunate not to have a very good sense of smell.

We visited a nutrition centre where children get a good balanced meal and supplementary feeding, if necessary. The mothers cook the food to bring to the centre. So many of the people living there contribute in some way. We saw a great number of stunted children. One child, who looked about 9-months-old, was 2 years old. We then moved next door to a creche where children can be safe for the day while their mothers work on the rubbish dump.

Next to that was a Health Centre, not quite like the one I used to work in. They have health workers and assistants and their drug dept was just a few boxes of vitamins, rehydration salts, vitamins and treatment for TB. As we were leaving, a tanker arrived with the water supply. But as it’s not a legal site they have to buy their own water from a private company and it costs them 30 rupees (about 40p) for a can of water, which is a lot when you only earn a dollar a day, if you’re lucky.

The partner organisation that we are working with were amazing. One difficulty they face is to  get people to work there as they would have to live there as well. The staff then took us for lunch and explained so much of the work that it’s difficult to explain it all now. We will catch up on our briefings when we get back.

These are my impressions of Mumbai. It’s a city that really buzzes. There are 19 million people and 60% live in slums. On Saturday, children and families are out late at night with many sleeping on the streets. The traffic is unbelievable — I don’t think there are any rules except who has the loudest horn and the biggest nerve gets through.

We are staying at the YMCA. But we visited the Taj Hotel, which is majestic and shows the other splendid and modern side to India. What a day of contrasts.

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