Sunday, June 23, 2024

Special school provides ray of hope for poverty-ridden kids, mothers


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By Ibankyntiew Mawrie


A class in progress at the evening school at Sacred Heart LP School Mawlai. (ST)

Shillong: Upholding the real essence of education as being the right of every child, the Sacred Heart Theological College at Mawlai has for the last nine years opened up its doors for poor children who otherwise could never dream of attending regular schools.

This college had a humble beginning in 2003 with a special outreach programme, ‘Caring for the children at risks’ aimed at providing free education for children hailing from economically disadvantaged sections of society.

“It is necessary for every child to be educated as education is a basic right of every child. We have noticed that there were many children who had to drop out of schools at a very young age due to financial problems in the family, and once they dropped out they become a burden to the society,” Principal of the Sacred Heart Theological College, Fr Shaji Joseph, said.

This evening school which started off with around 20 to 25 students in 2003 presently caters to over 120 students. The school runs classes from Class ‘A’ Rit (nursery) to Class 1 after which the children are referred to normal schools in the area for pursuing higher education. The school, which functions from the building of Sacred Heart Lower Primary School, is runs from 1.30pm to 3.30pm. Once the classes are over for the day, the children then engage in their daily chores like babysitting or helping their parents at their workplaces. At present there are three teachers assigned to each class.

“The children are also being provided with meals comprising of milk and bread everyday for their nourishment. Once a month we arrange a special meal for them,” Fr Joseph added.

“Our main aim is to prepare the children so that they are able to join other normal schools. There have been kids who have managed to reach the ninth or the tenth standard. We are very proud of them,” Fr Joseph said, while adding that in a year they refer around 30 students to different schools in Mawlai area.

Fr Joseph further mentioned that the special programme, ‘caring for children at risks’ was actually started in 1989 by Former Principal of the college, Fr CM Jose, who mooted the idea of providing free treatment to poor children suffering from rickets. But with time, they realized that most of these children had never got the opportunity to go to school and some of them had to drop out half way due to family problems. With this idea in mind, Fr Joseph started the school in 2003 to cater to all such needy children.

This scribe, while speaking to a Class I kid, Nibanri Mary Lyngdoh Nongbsap, was able to gather some insights into the life and work of these kids. “I joined this school last year. I had never thought that I will get a chance to go to school as I had drop out of school earlier when I was studying in Class 1 because my family could not support me,” she said.

“It is a blessing for all of us out here as we get what the others also get and that is knowledge. We sing, we play and we study for our exams like everyone else,” she added.

Besides providing free schooling to the small children, the school also runs special classes for mothers who had never got the chance to read and write or had been forced to drop out before completing their school courses.

This free education for the mothers, which was launched on August 15, 2011 with 18 ‘students’ now has 30 mothers attending regular classes.

“The institute also provides arts classes in the evening from 5-6pm with an aim to organise them into self-help groups which is one of the most reliable ways of earning their livelihood,” the principal added.

Stressing on the Right to Education (RTE) Act, Fr Joseph said that the Act should be implemented as soon as possible keeping in mind the life and future of thousands of children in the State who believe in the fact that education is secondary to everything else and definitely not a good option to choose in the face of poverty.


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