With festival'Teej' around, the children have had 3 days off school this week. It was quite heartening to see that the children from the school continued to attend the hourly English lesson in the morning at Uma's
Without the teacher this morning, I had an opportunity to get down to their level and tried to talk to them in English. They have met me several times before now albeit always in the presence of their mothers/Uma/other adults and teacher. With my bags of sweets and fancy pencils, I was able to bribe my way into their little circle. They understood very little. Uma's children did all the translating. This is surprising to me having been told by the Head that every class has 2 periods of 40 minutes per day. Uma's view that the standard needs to be upped is right. We need to do everything we can to help to improve the standard in the school.
I had the opportunity to talk to each of the 5 children individually.Energy of the children was very low. I would imagine its to do with light breakfast, and difficult home conditions.Bikas is the only boy we have from the school. He was jolly and upbeat when we first met in 2010 with his mother. Today he looked listless, tired and almost depressed.It transpired that his mother left home 2 months ago. He has not seen her since. I understand that he went off the rail a bit initially. Being a very conscientious hard working boy,he was often found hanging around internet cafe with video games . Uma had spoken to him about this. He said he no longer goes there. When I asked about mum, he looked really dejected and flat.My heart went out to him.He no longer sleeps on the floor, he told me. He now sleeps with his father in the bed. At least there is one positive aspect out of all this sadness.
Uma and I then went on to do 2 home visits.The first one was Santimaya's home. It is a common practice that the family (in lower socio-ecnomic class ) lives /cooks/eats and sleeps in one rented room.I expected that. What I found heart rendering is that 5 adults and a teenaged girl could manage that in a room no bigger than 12 ft square! The furniture consist of 2 single beds , a square table with 2 gas rings on top, a small wardrobe and a fold up mattress. Her two older brothers sleep in one single bed, the other is occupied by her mother and a sister, with the remaining sister and Santimaya sleeping on the floor. I did find this aspect quite distressing. How realistic are we as sponsors to expect this poor girl to study under such horrendous home situation? How unfair life is ? Her sponsor has specifically asked that I buy something for the family, whatever we feel is needed. Mum said she would like a small kitchen unit with shelves. Uma has since placed an order for the cabinet to be built.
We then went on to Laxmi's home. Though we have to climb 4 flights of stone steps, the home situation was much easier.Again the whole family lives in one room, with shared toilet and bathroom with other families living in the same block, not just on the same floor!She has a much smaller family. There are her parents and a younger brother. An uncle is staying there temporaraily.And the room is much bigger -16 to 18 feet square approximately.
Doing these 2 home visits has reminded me of the reason I am here. I accept that I cannot save the world period. I can only do the best I can when I am here.However , it does not take away the angst I feel for some of these unfortunate children. Its called accident of birth. It could have been you or me, and we would not be any the wiser
I will stop here before I get any more morbid.......