Muhammad Yunus, after some controversy, has stepped down from his leadership position at the Grameen Bank. Yunus broke ground in delivering aid to the poor in Bangladesh, in particular women, and his model has been repeated all over the world. In this tradition, DNET offers “micro-grants” to students– to assist them to gain a basic education which will improve their quality of life.
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We’d like to give a shout out to the Common Cents Penny Harvest. This is a program where students collect pennies and then research where to donate them. Those pennies add up and DNET is very grateful to be a recipient!!! The effort is mainly in NY City schools but is spreading to other districts. Read more about it here!
Have you seen the recent Amir Khan film 3 Idiots? This is not the main plot of the movie, but Amir plays an engineering college student who starts a school in Ladakh after graduation. There is nothing fancy or glamorous about his career choice, but you can see he greatly enjoys teaching and loves science. We came across the story of a school started in Bihar that parallels 3 Idiots– it is started by a few scientists who have ties to the region– very similar to our own endeavor to sponsor the education of children in Bihar. I would like to hear a little more about the funding mechanism– the article implies that the scientists are funding the school. I hope this is a sustainable model and that this school can continue to provide educational opportunities for many years to come.
From Bihar Times: http://www.bihartimes.in/Newsbihar/2010/Sep/Newsbihar07Sep1.html
Now a ‘Rancho’ school comes up in Bihar
Begusarai (Bihar), Sep 7 (IANS) A school for the poor in Bihar, inspired by Rancho’s iconic school in Bollywood blockbuster “3 Idiots”, has been opened by a scientist to teach complex science theories through games and interactive workshops.
Sudhir Kumar, a scientist working in the biotechnology laboratory of the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Pune, has set up a school in his native village of Mirzapur Chand in Bihar’s Begusarai district, about 110 km from Patna.
“Besides formal education up to Class 6, explanation of complex theories of science through fun and interactive workshops conducted by a panel of scientists will be part of the school’s curriculum,” Sudhir Kumar, an assistant professor at IIIT-Pune, told IANS.
The school, which opened Sunday, has a staggered fee structure — free of cost for the poor and different slabs for children with different economic backgrounds.
The governing body of the school will verify the family income of each student and will decide the fee accordingly. Richer parents will be charged more so that education of poor children can be subsidised.
“Education will be free for children belonging to families having no farm land or those of labourers, while kids of well-off parents such as landowners, businessmen, transport contractors, builders, government and private employees having regular income will be charged a monthly fee ranging from Rs. 50 to Rs. 100,” said Sunil Kumar, the principal of the school.
The school will be financially supported by a panel of scientists, including Naibedya Chattopadhyay, deputy director, Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow; Manavi Chatterjee, senior research fellow, Pharmacology Division, CDRI; and Tanaya De, former research fellow, Endocrinology Division, CDRI.
Besides them, international researchers who are extending support to the effort include Shawon Lahiri, Laussane University, Switzerland; Anchal Gussain, Chicago University; Rajiv Kumar Jain, Tartu University, Estonia; Ajay Kumar Srivastava, Seoul University, South Korea; and Elo Madissoon, a research fellow in Karolinska Institute. They will also conduct regular workshops in the school.
“Lectures would be organised with the help of guest faculty who are experts in different walks of life. Students can also interact with their teachers through video-conferencing,” said Kumar.
“The idea of having a school where poor children are encouraged to study science came to my mind many years back. Being a scientist, it is my responsibility to simplify the scientific theory so that they can be utilised by a layman and thus can be more useful for society,” said Kumar.
Initially, the school will enrol 50-100 students in the first batch. The number will increase later as per the infrastructure and availability of teachers.
“After Class 6, our focus will be to get the students admitted to high-end schools such as Sainik School, Tilaiya, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalay and Netarhat Vidyalay and avail scholarship schemes offered by the government for high school students,” he said, adding: “We are also planning to start classes up to 12th standard in this school”.
The classrooms would be equipped with projector screens, computers, internet and all the modern facilities and the children will be encouraged to participate in different activities such as art, music, dance and theatre, he said.
“Before the regular session begins in January next year, classes will be conducted specially for dropouts from September so that they can be registered with open schools,” said Satya Narayan Singh, one of the patrons of the school.
The school will be run by around 10 staff members, including retired teachers — Baidyanath Choudhary and Satya Narayan Singh — and CDRI’s deputy director Naibedya Chattopadhyay as patrons. While Sunil Kumar is the principal, Priyank Kumar, Kundan Sah and Sunil Sharma are teachers. The regular teachers will be paid a consolidated salary of Rs.1,000 per month.
Begusarai is the industrial hub of Bihar. Apart from the Indian Oil Corporation’s oil refinery in Barauni, it houses at least 200 small and big industries in an area of seven to eight kilometres. With the population dominated by landowners and farmers, the district also provides livelihood for businessmen, workers and transport contractors coming from other parts of the state.
NPR’s Planet Money has a recent short piece about poverty in India. Also check out the discussion in the comments. So, why do the poor remain poor? The article and comments point to many reasons, and one key reason is access to education. How can they get better jobs to increase their income and improve their quality of life? Basic education such as reading, writing, math, and English are initial steps. If DNET can help a handful of students attend school to learn these skills, then they, too, will have a chance to land a higher paying, skilled job.
The following is an article about the effect that the lack of toilets in schools in India has on girl’s education. Our students attend a school in a village in Bihar that does not have toilets. The school is surrounded by fields, which are often flooded. I imagine that the girls must only use the toilet at home (if they even have one) or in a field out of sight from their classmates. The From the April 22, 2010 New York Review of Books.
by Malise Ruthven
Walking above the village of Mehrauli on Delhi’s southern perimeter, we pass a woman with a half-empty bottle of water—one of several we have already noticed since daybreak. Dressed immaculately in a brightly colored sari, she emerges from behind a prickly bush on a tract of waste ground. If she were a man we might not have merited such discretion. India is about the only country in the world where you actually see human adults defecating. When traveling by road or rail you can be struck by the image of men squatting openly, impervious to the public gaze. The UN estimates that 638 million people—or 55 percent of the Indian population—still defecate out of doors. The practice is clearly born of necessity in a crowded country where the development of public amenities has conspicuously failed to keep pace with economic and demographic growth.
Conspicuous defecation, however, is restricted to males. Female modesty—enjoined by Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism alongside age-old patriarchal codes—dictates that women may relieve themselves only after dark or in the most secluded reaches of the forest, a practice that exposes them to violence or even snakebites. The consequences for women’s health can be devastating. Women of the poorest classes notoriously suffer from a range of urinary and bowel disorders born of taboos about pollution and other social constraints applied to the most basic and banal of bodily functions.
My companion and I are looking for the walls of Lal Kot—one of the oldest of Delhi’s numerous cities, built by the Rajputs in the mid-eleventh century, before the first Muslim invasion. The 3.6-kilometer-long walls enclose a space that has been largely abandoned to jungle. The cladding of irregular quartzite blocks was cut so accurately that no mortar was needed to hold them together. Set high on a ridge overlooking the present-day city, Lal Kot is a magnificent outpost of a forgotten civilization—a worthy precursor to the great Delhi Sultanate that flourished during the centuries of Islamic rule, as well as to its grandiose successor, New Delhi, designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker and completed in 1929, less than two decades before Britain was forced to abandon its Indian empire.
Lal Kot is far from the tourist trail. To reach it you have to cross a large rubbish dump and negotiate the odoriferous detritus—what used to be known as night soil—left by Mehrauli’s less favored human residents. They sleep rough, in old tombs or flimsy home-made shacks erected near the open sewers that intersect the area’s magnificent architectural monuments. In the absence of municipal services, refuse disposal is performed by long-haired pigs, which eat up every kind of organic matter, not excluding human and canine waste. (As Moses and Muhammad taught their followers, ham and bacon are best avoided in warm climates.)
The lack of sanitation is emblematic of India’s failure as an emerging economic giant to include most of its population in its achievements. India is now home to the fourth-largest number of billionaires. According to Tim Sebastian, the formerBBC journalist who chairs a forum in Doha, Qatar, for debate about social and political issues in the Middle East, some 60 million people in India—who make up the world’s most populous and most powerful middle class—now enjoy living standards higher than Britain and France. Yet the vast majority are excluded from India’s version of the American dream. As a former government minister, Mani Shankar Ayar, told Sebastian:
We have a tiny elite that is obsessed with itself. If democracy doesn’t deliver for the rest—we could be heading for violence. We’re seeing a failure to bring 900 million people inside the system of entitlements. Without entitlements, you pick up the gun.
A third of the country’s districts are now facing rural insurgencies spearheaded by the Maoist Naxalites. Is it not just a matter of time before violence spreads to major conurbations such as Delhi, home to more than 22 million people, many of them living on less than a dollar a day?
A visit to one of Delhi’s poorest quarters provides a glimmer of hope. The Nizamuddin district takes its name from the shrine of a holy man—Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya (1238–1325)—renowned for his religious inclusiveness, his commitment to the poor, his disdain for rulers, and a love of music and dance that set him apart from his more austere Muslim contemporaries. The shrine attracts visitors from all over the Islamic world, as well as non-Muslim devotees. It typifies the spiritual syncretism one finds in India, where the tombs of holy persons attract followers from all religions. Until recently this run-down area was crammed with rural migrants and pilgrims hoping to benefit spiritually from the shaikh’s baraka (blessedness), or materially by taking odd jobs serving other pilgrims.
With no serviceable toilets available for pilgrims, the ground beneath the pillars of the overhead metro railway that is now under construction (causing a huge disruption to Delhi’s burgeoning traffic) has become an open latrine, a magnet for flies and disease. Now the Aga Khan Foundation, in partnership with other NGOs and agencies, is rehabilitating the area in a major initiative with the municipal corporation of Delhi. Measures include the organized collection of refuse, the provision of public toilets managed by the community, where users are charged a small fee for cleaning and supervision, and the rehousing of squatters who had constructed precarious additions to the fourteenth-century baoli, or stepwell—the water is reached by descending flights of steps—which is now being dredged and reconstituted using the latest radar technology.
The local government school in Nizamuddin has received a comprehensive makeover funded by the Aga Khan Foundation in collaboration with one of India’s oldest charities, the Sir Ratan Tata Trust. In addition to bright new classrooms, well designed for children, a vital outcome of the project, the headmaster suggests, is the renovated toilet block with separate cubicles for girls and boys. In Delhi—as in rural Gujarat, where similar conditions prevail—school dropout rates have been highest among girls. Purely cultural factors—such as the demands of mothers for domestic help—are partly responsible. But teachers and aid workers see the lack of toilets as the primary reason girls have not been attending school, since there is no private place where they can relieve themselves. A program for building school toilets in Gujarat that I looked at several years ago has yielded not just improvements in family health and hygiene, but a marked increase in female school attendance. Fifteen of the girls who took part in the program—whereby the children themselves cleaned the toilets—were going on to higher education.
Since the introduction of the new toilets in the Nizamuddin school, female dropout rates have declined dramatically: girls now make up 55 percent of the pupils. Living in London one takes the humble loo for granted. A fortnight in Delhi reveals its potential for kick-starting a social revolution.
We have a new phone number. We will soon be disconnecting the 804 number.
Check out this post about a beautiful school built in Bangladesh with the aid of some German and Austrian architects. The pictures are stunning!
- The school year begins in April of each year, not in August/September like in the United States.
- Instead of summer, winter, and spring breaks, schools in Bihar typically take breaks in May for the hot season and in the fall/winter for the festival season.
- School is open on Saturdays.
- Many villages have elementary schools, but there are fewer secondary schools. Students often have to travel to neighboring villages to attend high school.
- Problems like flooding routinely close schools because roads are impassable. If school is open, many students still have problems getting to school.
- Many classes share a room because there are not enough rooms or teachers for each class to be held separately.
- Girls sit on one side of the room and boys sit on the other. Instead of desks, there are long tables and benches where students crowd together.
- There is no electricity at many village schools. Teachers use a blackboard and chalk to teach their lessons.
- School lunch is a simple meal of kichri (a mix of rice and lentils with mild spices).
Here is a short article that is highlighting some encouraging development news out of Bihar. Could a change in government be responsible?
Bihar is often seen as India’s Somalia: a failed state run by a venal political elite, a civil society fractured by caste, a dysfunctional bureaucracy that does not police the streets or ensure that teachers attend school and an economic sinkhole bypassed by the economic boom that has transformed the country. Biharis have voted with their feet, and their mass migration has led to a backlash in cities as diverse as Mumbai, Guwahati and Ludhiana.?Bihar is too big and strategically important to be allowed to wallow in backwardness. The new numbers published by the Central statistics office offer hope of renewal: They show that the state’s output from 2004-05 to 2008-09 grew at a double-digit annual rate, outperforming India as a whole. It is yet not clear what has propelled Bihar’s growth in these years, but one clear possibility is the change of government in the state: from Lalu Prasad to Nitish Kumar.?No economy can grow when the rule of the law has collapsed and deep institutional decline raises the cost of economic activity, constant features on the Bihar landscape since at least the end of the 1980s. The larger lesson is that the politics of redistribution inevitably becomes a grab for resources unless robust economic growth keeps the cake growing. That is the tragic dividend of Mandalism.?It is hard to believe that Bihar was rated India’s second best governed state after Independence by the Paul Appleby report. The late journalist and political thinker Arvind Das saw Bihar as a metaphor for India. He often pointed out that this is the state of Gautam Buddha and King Ashoka, of Rajendra Prasad and Jayaprakash Narayan. It’s now the state of anarchy.?It is too soon to conclude that Bihar has healed and is ready to participate in the modern Indian economy as an equal partner rather than as a laggard that sucks public funds and sends millions of impoverished immigrants to other states. There is always the danger of reading too much into random bits of statistics; the same mistake was made with West Bengal a few years ago, which grew at around 1 percentage point faster than the national average for around 10 years but really does not offer enough economic opportunity to its residents compared with what states such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu or Karnataka do.?It is hard to believe that a mere change in the state government can uproot deep-rooted problems within five years. But there is definitely reason to believe that the Nitish Kumar government has done enough to undo some of the worst features of the Lalu Prasad years.Is Bihar on the path to recovery? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2007 HT Media All Rights Reserved
DNET wishes all of you a Happy New Year! Thanks to all of you who have donated this year– your support has helped keep children in school so they can learn basic skills to lead more productive lives. In the coming weeks we will be publishing a series of posts on how donations help sponsored students.
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