THE EDUCATION SPONSORSHIP PROGRAMME
OF THE GUJARAT EDUCATION SOCIETY
The Education Sponsorship Programme (ESP) is connected with a chain of 90 CHHATRALAYAS (boarding schools) with a total of almost 15,000 children in Gujarat State. These mainly between the ages of 8 and 18 years), come from among the weakest and poorest families of Gujarat. For the past several years the ESP has been making it possible for many chil~ˇ1!ˇen to have the benefits of an education, which in normal circumstances they would have been deprived of. Contributions to the ESP have come in irom the sacrifices of all kinds of people Ilot only from India, but from several other countries too. The ESP works on the principle that education is the key to liberation.., a key which could open the door to a future of hope, to children who would have otherwise been denied it.
LIFE IN THE CHHATRALAYAS
We present here the rationale and understanding behind the chhatralayas :
The children who live in them come from the very remote and backward areas - mainly from the tribal belts of Gujarat. In such areas very little or no education is available.Where, some sort of school has been "started" by the Government, it is either the children who do not attend or the school master playing truant, or the so-called school just "non existent".
The chhatralayas work on a basic premise that only education can bring about a social change and help the
marginalized to better their lot. Parents have to be convinced of the need to send their children to a chhatralaya and many do cooperate. The chhatralayas are usually in the semi-urban or more developed rural areas (though there are some in the very remote and backward areas); this is due to the availability of educational facilities. The children live in the chhatralaya - and usually attend the Governmentrun local school...
In the chhatralayas the children have ample opportunities for a wholistic development. Since one necessarily has to "conform" to the formal system of education, encouragement is given to the children to do well in their academic studies. The fact that the chhatralayas have the basic amenities (like electricity, water etc.) which the children would not have in their villages, helps them in the pursuit and love of knowledge. However the chhatralayas also stress on, and try to stimulate in the children, various human qualities :team-work, striving for justice, love for truth, selfless service, creativity etc. These are fostered through various programmes held in the Chhatralaya during the year.
In order not to alienate them from the hard realities of every day life, the children also have to share in the running of the Chhatralaya in simple yet important areas : cutting vegetables, helping in the cooking, keeping the place clean, cutting firewood etc.Thus they also grow in responsibility. Al! the children are also expected to pay a nominal monthly fee to the Chhatralaya... This is merely a token, since it would hardly cover up the expenditure of a couple of days; but it does succeed in erasirig that "depending on others" complex to a small extent, besides adding to their sense of dignity. The children are also constantly made aware of the social injustices around them; of their right and duties; of the fact, that they alone can be the true liberators of their people.
Besides, emphasis is also given to the cultural, spiritual and physical growth of the children.There are the moments of song and dance; of prayer and worship; of fun and games. All this is necess~ary for one's 'total' development.
The children spend on an average of three to four months of the year with their parents.-rwo months at a stretch during the summer vacation and the rest distributed during the year according to their local festivals, harvestˇtimes and other holidays. The parents often visit the children in the chhatralayas, whenever they come to the town for some work, purchasing etc. - or on "Boarding Day" held by the children in honour of their parents.
Naturally, the Chhatralayas also have their low points :the pains of growth, the tensions of trying to make both ends meet, the problems within etc. But this is minimal when compared to the tremendous good done through them.
LEAVING A CHHATRALAYA
The children usually come into the Chhatralaya when they are in Class IV or
VI (normally between ages of 9 and 11) and stay there till they complete their
schooling, that is Class X (S.S.C.) (normal age 16 plus)... However in some
Chhatralayas, they join in an earlier class and in some (where such education
is available) they stay on till they have completed their Higher Secondary Course
(Class XI & XII = Pre-University).
Children normally leave a Chhatralaya :
- When theyhavefinished their schooling.
- When they go from one Chhatralaya to another (say from a Primary Chhatralaya to a Secondary Chhatraraya).
- for some personal reasons... these are some recent examples as to why some of the children had to stop coming to the Chhatralaya :
Ramesh has another baby brother - so Ramesh's parents think it more important for him to remain at home and help out in the little field, to graze the few animals etc... Then there is Laxmi, whose father be~ame a leper.-rhe poor girl had to face social ostracization; Another girl Anandi, at a very young age was married off - so naturally she could not continue... And there are those heart-rending tragedies : little Sits, is no more. Death was instantaneous after a poisonous snake bit her...Yes, there are those who do not return, who never will - But the vacancy is immediately filled up by those just longing to come to a Chhatralaya.
SPONSORING A CHILD
The ESP has made it possible for several people who "have", to participate
and contribute in the education of a child. For want of a better word we have
called it "sponsoring". However, this does in no way imply "adopting" or merely
"aid-giving" (the donor-recipient attitude; one patronizing, the other dependent).
When a person wishes to sponsor a child/children, he/she is asked to contribute $ 150 per year per child, which is passed on to the Chhatralaya for the maintenance of that particular child for the year. This contribution is only a small part of the total expenses spent on a child.
The average expenditure necessary for maintaining (food, boarding, fuel, health, sports, tuition, programme etc.) a child works out to over $ 400 per year (that is 10 months).
Many wonder as to how a child could be educated with a mere $ 150. But as seen above, this is just about 1!3 of the expenses of a child. The other 2/3 are met by a small contribution from the child's family, the products of the gardens the Chhatralayas may have and some alms that the Chhatralayas have to collect on their own. However the 1/3 share which comes from the Sponsor makes a tremendous difference - in the effort to educate the chilci. From the contribution obtained through FSr" we are able to help only 10% of the children studying In the Chhatralayas. For the rest, the C'~hatralaya Directors hnv~ to fend for themselves - this being always unforseeable, they are always anxious as to how they will -reach the end of the year.
When a Child is sponsored, the Sponsor receives : the photograph and bio-sketch of the child.
an annual report of the progress of the child (usually sent in July/August).
an occasional letter/greeting from the child.
JIVAN and other periodic circular letters - sent by the ESP office - about the Chhatralaya and lives of the people of Gujarat in general.
besides, a constant remembrance and a prayer of gratitude from all here.
Should a sponsor wish to give more than the requested contribution, he is welcome to do so - but the excess amount is normally used for the good of the whole Chhatralaya, in which the sponsored child lives. A group in Netherlands for example, sometime ago sent the Chhatralaya in Ankleshwar help to meet the necessary expenditure for sports goods and uniforms for the boys. This brought joy not only to one, but to several boys.
Then there is also a possibility of involving oneself in works/projects related to the Chhatralayas... making a well, vocational training for youth etc. This involves bigger amounts of money.
WHAT IS DISCOURAGED
We discourage the sponsors from sending any personal gifts to the sponsored child. This has to be understood in the light of the aims of the Chhatralayas which is to prepare first, rather than alienate them. The impact of the Chhatralayas has primarily to be felt mainly in the villages from which the children come.
Sponsors are varied :some rich, some not-so-rich. Ifa child is lucky enough
to have a rich sponsor - and is the recipient of gifts : that child naturally
arouses jealousies among the others and spoils the sponsored child making him
good. The children came from the same village/similar villages, a similar
economic and social background etc.. The life in the Chhatralaya is simple so
any child who starts receiving presents naturally runs the risk of being
ostracized by his very own.
In a Chhatralaya all are equal - they eat the same food cooked in the same kitchen, wear the same people clothes, play the same games etc... Equality, cooperation, sharing are values constantly stressed.. Anything contrary to this is strongly discouraged.
If an occasional present is received from one of the sponsors - then it is normally given as a prize for some competition in the Chhatralaya.
Finally, an over-dependence is discouraged. "Aid", also has its negatives in as much as it is patronizing, or makes the recipient totally dependent. That is why the ESP insists that only a fraction of the total expenditure comes from contribution of the Sponsor.
In Gujarat today we have 55 Chhatralayas for boys and 35 for girls. The Chhatralayas are separate, in keeping with the cultural patterns of the area. However, in school the boys and girls sit and study in the same Class. They mix freely, speak, have their functions, tribal dances, and other celebrations together. The "lingua franca" is Gujarati. However in particular areas the local dialect is used, Just a handful of children understand a little English.
The Chhatralaya is run by a director, who is assisted by a Prefect - and House Master/Mother. Normally these prefects/masters are old students of the same Chhatralaya - but have finished their studies. The Chhatralayas for girls are normally run by the Sisters. Besides, every Chhatralaya is divided into small groups/teams, each one h'aving their own leaders, who see to the day-to-day running of things.
The Chhatralayas are all part of the Catholic Church in Gujarat - However they are open to all without distinction of caste or creed. A strong bias however is reserved for the children of the poor and the iIliterate.
Besides being directly connected with the Chhatralayas in its daily programme, the ESP has also been running over the years several activities for the children of the Chhatralayas. During the International Year of the child, for example, a huge Art Competition was held. This has become now an annual feature in the form of a Christmas Card Competition. In may 1985 - a special Mountaineeringcum-leadership Camp was organized in Mount Abu for the Tribal boy~ of the Gnnat.ralayas. ~sp has also hesr? sporis~utiiiy Lariuus "shibirs" (training camps) at various levels for the boys and girls...
HOW TO SEND YOUR MONEY
When you wish to sponsor a child, send your money only by cheque/check drawn in favour of 'GUJARAT EDUCATION SOCIETY'. This can be done in any major bank in your area. Send the cheque to us by REGISTERED POST (RÉCOMMANDÉ / KIRJATAAN) addressed to :
GUJARAT EDUCATION SOCIETY (E.S.P.)
P. B. NO. 4002
AHMEDABAD 380 009 GUJARAT- INDIA
Fax: (91) (79) 642 63 62
This, in brief is the story of the Chhatralayas of Gujarat and the Education Sponsorship Programme. Should you want to join us in any small way, in participating in the education of one of our children, or want further details, then do write to us (at the address given below).This is a smali venture - but we too share in the vision of the Chinese sage, who said : "it is better to iight one candle than to curse the darkness:
FR. CEDRIC PRAKASH S.J.
GUJARAT EDUCATION SOCIETY
Post Box No. 4002
Ahmedabad 380 009, GUJARAT
FAX : (91) (79)6426362
TEL : (91) (79) 495238