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Why We Do It

Why We Do It

In 2004 there was no school in Gamru village and 60% of the village children were not attending school. This pattern can be seen nationwide – it is estimated that just over 50% of children between the ages of 6 and 14 actually attend school, although a far higher number are enrolled. Primary and middle school education is compulsory in India and government schools do not charge school fees, but despite this most of the children currently attending Gamru School had only six months of education behind them before dropping out of their previous school. Community Growth identified the following reasons for the low level of school attendance in Gamru Village:

 

 

 

Lack of Financial Resources

Many of these children’s parents are construction workers or day labourers (painters, carpenters etc)and do not earn enough money to take care of both their basic family needs and also send their children to school. The only available jobs in some of the surrounding local villages is to drive local taxis, but with over 600 registered taxi drivers in the local syndicate, competition for daily fares is fierce. Government schools may not charge school fees, however the costs of uniforms, books and stationery are a significant financial burden. As these parents have only minimum resources they had to choose which of their children would attend school and which would stay behind and help with the workload. It was not uncommon that boys would be allowed to go to school, but girls would be required to work at home. But even boys did not stay in school for long; many left to help their families before finishing primary school.

Although the long-term value of education is understood by most, the immediate pressing needs and lack of resources experienced by these children gave them no choice but to leave school before they had mastered basic skills such as literacy. The general consensus among families was that although education may improve job prospects and their standard of living in the future, work will put food on the table daily, as is needed now.

By the provision of full scholarships and active encouragement to parents to send their children to school, 163 Indian children (current as of August 2012) from disadvantaged families are receiving an education through Gamru Village School.

 

Lack of a Safe, Structured Environment

As there were no day-care facilities in Gamru Village, parents had to bring infants to the construction sites with them if there was no one else available to take care of them. Here they were left sitting alongside dangerous roads or on piles of rubble for up to 10 hours a day as their parents worked breaking stones and carrying heavy loads.

It was common that older children were charged with taking care of their young siblings, which meant that they could no longer attend school. Instead, they were left at home bored and unsupervised, and were at high risk of becoming exposed to drugs and alcohol which are easily accessible in this community.

Community Growth has established a day care centre that ensures (a) infants have a safe and nurturing environment and acquire early learning skills; and (b) older children do not miss out on their education by having to look after their younger siblings.

 

Lack of a local, reliable school facility

The nearest government school is 90 minutes walk away up a steep mountain on the other side of the valley. During Summer it is boiling hot, in the Winter it is freezing cold and in the monsoon it is extremely dangerous to make this trek, as the path becomes slippery and loose.

After making this long trek to reach the school, it was not unusual for the teacher to be absent or even to subcontract the teaching work to unqualified substitutes. Despite being prohibited by Indian Law, there is a high incidence of the use of corporal punishment in these schools. As a result of these factors children lost interest in attending school.

Gamru Village School is located in the centre of Gamru Village, and is at most 10 minutes walk away for the village children. The teachers at Gamru Village School are caring and understand the need for tolerant, patient methods of discipline control. They are also carefully monitored to ensure that they never use corporal punishment and verbal abuse against students, and attend classes on a daily basis.