Christine Gregoire rightly said that “Education is the foundation upon which we build our future”. However, every year, in our country, millions of children drop out of schools for financial reasons, killing their potential and extinguishing their dreams. GURUKUL is Literacy India’s flagship, ‘one of its kind project’ that supports meritorious and motivated students, who show an inclination for continued education and desire to receive mainstream English education. The Gurukul project paves the way forward for children who are aspiring for higher education and career prospects. Literacy India sponsors the education of such students at English medium public schools such as the Rotary Public School, St Soldier School and Mount School, to name a few, by meeting the entire cost of their education. This project also supports students who wish to pursue vocational courses such as fashion designing, interior designing and even an MBA. Literacy India has recently tied up with the Rai Foundation, which is sponsoring professional education for girls passing out from higher secondary classes. This project has many individual donors and corporate sponsors like PVR Nest, Gyan Jyoti charitable trust, American Express, HSBC and the Charities Aid Foundation. Many of our donors are from India, the UK and North America.
NEED FOR PROJECT GURUKUL
Literacy India, during its implementation observed a few issues, which led to the pressing need for a project of the peculiar nature of Gurukul. A certain segment of society, which includes tribals, are totally cut off from civilization and hence ignorant of the concept of education. Living a life of obliviousness, they are still blindly following practices that their ancestors did. In addition to awareness, a support system is also needed to tackle these issues, so as to engage with them, hand hold them, and most of all, render financial support.
- Education, especially for the children, is not addressed, due to both inaccessibility and non-affordability. Both girls and boys are admitted in school but there is an invariable decline or drop out from school either in the class III or V level for both genders. The reasons, as mentioned above, are locational as well as financial.
- Child marriage is very common in villages. Awareness and support can go a long way to bring about a change in mindsets.
- The tribal children are first generation learners. Parents cannot help or guide their children in any which way. Even while these tribal kids are in formal school, their pick up is not so fast and they are left behind. Since parents can be of no help, regular tuition is required.
- Further to the above issue, the children need extra support in education using both, residential schools as well as regular tuition. The schools are located at a distance, and regular commute for children is not possible because of lack of communication between the villages and schools.
- There are few tribal communities such as the Birhor community who are still dependent on hunting and gathering for their livelihood. They do not understand the importance of education , and are still not willing to send their children to school
- The children have their dreams and aspirations, and most of all, huge potential. A little awareness and support can bring changes in their life as well as that of the entire community, for generations to come. It’s all about getting the ball rolling, and Gurukul has done just that!
GURUKUL COMES A FULL CIRCLE
Hiralal Paharia from Kolagara village scored 92% in his final exam. He is in class II. His favourite subject is English. He attends school regularly. His village Kolagara, has a dense forest. Her mother is a rope maker. Hiralal’s main passion is to fly kites. He dreams of a sky filled with kites of different colours. He aspires to be an engineer. “I shall do up and transform our conical shaped old traditional hut with my own engineering knowledge. I will build a toilet and kitchen in it too”, says an enthusiastic Hiralal.
There is pride written all over Uma Laya’s father’s face when he shares that his child has got 81% marks. He could never fathom this as he himself cannot read or write. He is amazed to see his daughter read the hoardings, sign boards, bus numbers, ticket prices and so on. During vacations, Uma teaches her sister and brother in the village. Uma is now in class III. Her favourite subject is mathematics. After completion of her academic course, she wants to start a school in her village Kolagara. However, for now, she wants to be a nurse. “I will construct my school on the bank of the river, so that children do not have to walk a long distance to reach school. I want to be a nurse too, and will serve women and men during emergencies like snake bites and accidents”, shares Uma with her eyes twinkling with imagination.
The principal of Eklabya school is proud and delighted to see the regular presence and involvement of the parents in the school. “Ours is a residential school. If parents come after 15 days, the children feel better”, he says. The principal also states that there has been a lot of change in the attitude of the parents in the last 2 to 3 years. They visit regularly, bring the children on the specifically mentioned date after vacations; absenteeism is negligible, a sense of hygiene among children as well as parents has developed, respect towards rules and discipline is also on an increase. These are all positive signs of a project well received and well utilized.