Education

Education1Educational initiatives are seen as channels for reaching out to children and helping them grow as balanced and compassionate adults. The emphasis is on inculcating values and fostering friendships between children from various strata of society. The schools, in particular, are considered as instruments for transforming society. The initiatives become a means for realising Mary Ward's vision of education. Thus, the Mission Centres in the Darjeeling Region have sought to focus on children, particularly girls, from deprived and marginalised communities.

Child Development Centres / Bal Bikash

Child Development Centres (CDCs), known locally as  Bal Bikash, aim at providing children from deprived backgrounds a headstart in the education system. The CDCs provide preschool education to children who are first generation learners and whose parents are often unable to provide the appropriate stimulating environment at home.  Mid day meals are also provided. Currently, about 40 children aged 3-5 years attend the CDCs run in Okhrey and Dharan.

Bilingual Schools

 The Panighatta, Sadam and Lolay Mission Centres each run a bilingual school for children from the local communities. The Lolay school (Nepali and English medium) has 155 students and runs classes from Pre Nursery to IV. The school at Sadam (Pre Nursery to Class V) caters to 85 students. It too offers classes in Nepali and English. The secondary school at Panighatta (Pre Nursery to Class X) has 490 students on its rolls. Here, the languages used are Hindi and English.

 

education2The Colours of Peace

The International Day of Peace was celebrated with drawing competitions across all Mission schools and Centres in the Region. The competition, called Colour My World, was conducted in Lolay, Panighatta and Sadam on Sept 19, 2008. The centres in Nepal held the competition on Sept 22, 2008. Sisters and teachers at the schools/Mission Centres and DMWSC staff members collectively made the necessary arrangements. Bonnie Francesca Sandercock, an old scholar of Loreto Marryatville in Australia, provided funds for this event. She asked her friends and family to gift her money on her 21st birthday. She donated the amount that was collected.

At each location, the event began with a prayer and a brief assembly focusing on peace. Subsequently, chart papers and colour pencils were distributed to children who were eager to get down to business! It was encouraging to see children use their creativity and draw their own personal and unique visions. The event in each school and Mission Centre ended with a prize distribution ceremony where all the participants were given certificates. Children who made the 3 best paintings in each class were given special prizes.

 

Hostels

Hostels play a significant role in enabling girls from remote areas to access educational opportunities. Parents allow their daughters to live away from their homes and study only because of the availability of hostel facilities. Currently, 65 girls are residing in the Prabhat Tara Hostel in Darjeeling. Twelve girls are staying in the smaller Mary Ward Hostel in Dharan. The girls are in the 10-20 years age group.

The Sadam Hostel is home to 10 children in the age group of 2 to 10 years.

education3Coaching Classes

Coaching classes provide back up educational support to children from deprived backgrounds. Their parents usually work as rickshaw pullers, construction workers, tea garden labourers, stone breakers and domestic workers. An overwhelming majority of these parents are illiterate/had limited schooling. They are unable to help their children with homework or follow up on other related aspects. The classes thus provide supportive inputs to the children and also track their attendance and retention in schools.

The coaching classes in Dharan cover nearly 200 children up to Class VIII. In Lohasingh, classes are held at two locations. Here, 50 children studying till Class IV are taught. The coaching classes held at the Panighatta school are open to all students studying in Class IV and above.

Adult Education Centres

Adult Education Centres focus on functional literacy for women aged 18-60 years. These centres cater to women who did not get the opportunity to attend schools as children because of various factors including poverty, gender based discrimination and limited access.

In Lohasingh, 20 SHG mothers attend classes held at 2 centres. They are taught by 2 teachers who are also from the same community. In Dharan, the classes are conducted by a single teacher. Sustained efforts have helped in making more than 100 women literate in Dharan.

 Barefoot Teacher Training

Sr. Barbara Rudum has been involved in providing Barefoot Teacher Training for many years now. The training aims at helping teachers to build a conducive learning environment for children. It draws from the joyful learning approach.

So far, Sr. Barbara has trained 500 primary school teachers through a tie up with the Department of Education, Government of Sikkim. She has trained teachers at Loreto Schools in the Region, Holy Cross and Leenge School (Sikkim) and diocesan schools in Bagdogra (West Bengal) through Seva Kendra. She has also trained 750 teachers from rural schools in Kalimpong (West Bengal) at Gandhi Ashram over a period of 15 years.

Sponsorships for Education

The Mission Centres have been involved in seeking sponsorships for education. This becomes essential as local communities are unable to support the educational costs of their children. Depending on their financial position, parents pay varying amounts. Many cannot pay at all. The money received through sponsorships is used to help the children complete their schooling at the Loreto schools and other related centres.

 

Utilising Resources – Initiating Income Generation Activities

The Mission Centres in Dharan, Sadam and Lolay have started income generation activities using the available space attached to the Education Centres. The options being currently explored include vegetable gardening, floriculture and piggery. Incidentally, these initiatives have aroused the children's enthusiasm and interest as well!

 

 

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