The team of URI East India from Kolkata - comprised of Biswadeb Chakraborty Regional Coordinator and Shreyosi Biswas, Admin Assistant - travelled to Bihar State in December 2021 to meet with Deepak Kumar, CC Outreach Officer, and members from local Cooperation Circles. Deepak, the founder of Smile4Millions CC based in Purnea, Bihar, arranged the logistics for the Bihar Cluster Meet.
Our team visited the slums where Smile4Millions CC is working and saw that every household consisted of a minimum of three children and they weren't being sent to school. In speaking with nearly 70 mothers gathered there, it became known that their children went to school only for “Mid-day Meals” (an initiative started by the Government of India). The children never stayed in school to study. The major problem in the community is that they are living below the poverty line, hence survival is more of a priority than education. The prevalence of child labour is also extremely high in the community. When we spoke to the mothers, we explained the importance of education and that education is the only way that they can ultimately escape from this vicious cycle of poverty. Education will put an end to the caste discrimination by bringing equality in income.
While talking with them, we met two educated women from the community. They had completed their Madhyamik (class X) and Higher Secondary Education (class XII). They understood the importance of education and were sending their children to school. We spoke to these women, and inspired them to be teachers in their community, explaining and encouraging other parents to send their children to school. They readily agreed to it. They committed to go door-to-door, asking the mothers to send their children to school. They will also be conducting a group counselling session with Deepak, explaining the importance of education.
The government is providing educational facilities, but due to the government's lack of engagement with the local communities, the scenario remains the same with children not going to school. Our URI East India team wants to help Smile4Millions CC work in the area to facilitate the running of temporary schools where they can cultivate the importance of education. After some time in temporary schools, the families will be encouraged to send the children to the nearby government school. Deepak and Smiles4Millions CC is looking for a location for the temporary school. The CC will also be providing stationery to the students. URI East India will try to provide the honorarium for the teachers.
Our team visited the nearby government school and spoke to the principal and the members of the school committee. They really appreciated the bridge-building work that URI is doing in India and all across the world. After having a talk with the principal, Smt. Archana, regarding admission of the slum children, she happily agreed and said the children are always welcome to attend her school.
We also learned that the principal is a President Awardee. We really admired her work managing and teaching in a government school, and her ability in running a school so well in such an impoverished location. She, being a female principal and also a President Awardee, is truly a role model in her area where education is neglected and women's education is not even considered.
"We try to give each and every student the best education possible. Education is a basic fundamental right of every child. We never say NO to admitting children in our school. We ALWAYS have enough space to admit new students."
- Smt. Archana, Principal, Bihar State
Going forward, Deepak and Smiles4Millions CC will be overseeing the work with the mothers from the neighbourhood. There will be follow up visits as soon as the temporary schools are set up. Biswadeb Chakraborty will stay in touch with the principal regarding the admission of the children. Biswadeb is receiving real time updates from Deepak on the work happening there.
Even though things are a bit delayed due to the COVID situation, we anticipate more people in this area to come forward and set good examples which will lead to betterment in their community.