Monday 28 February 2011

Question: What price an education?

Question: What price an education?
I grew up in a society which values education probably above everything else. Scotland is proud of its long history of education, of free education, of education for all. My parents grew up in a generation for whom that meant in practice schooling until you were 12. Ask anyone from that generation what  they wanted for their children and the answer was always the same – A good education! I suspect it won’t have changed much today. 
I was much luckier than my mum and dad. Even though it was economically very difficult, I stayed on at school until I was 17, finally going onto University after working for a bit. In the days of 100% payment of fees and grants that meant no economic burden to my family except for occasional usual board and lodgings provided during part of the vacation. I certainly didn’t need to go out and earn money whilst studying (Not so for students nowadays). And I certainly didn’t have to whilst at school. Ok I did have a Saturday job but I could only do this after my 15th birthday.
Now I am sure we’ve all heard about the carpet makers, the fireworks factories, the cheap clothing sweat shops, but child labour is much more pervasive. If you need some background check out the facts about child labour in India today and in a wider world context . There’s the whole spectrum from labour within the family business through paid employment, through to bonded labour and effective slavery.
Consistently through 2000-2009 India is listed in the top 12 worse countries for child labour according to the Unicef.  Child labour is everywhere in India, city, town and countryside.  It is the young boy sweeping the floor at train station, fetching and carrying in the local shops, its the young boy who delivers your pint of milk from the local cowherd, its the girls who make those very sweet sweets Indians love! When Unicef do their surveys this is the definition of child labour they use
Child labour – Percentage of children aged 5 to 14 years of age involved in child labour activities at the moment of the survey. A child is considered to be involved in child labour activities under
the following classification: (a) children 5 to 11 years of age that during the week preceding the survey did at least one hour of economic activity or at least 28 hours of domestic work, and
(b) children 12 to 14 years of age that during the week preceding the survey did at least 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of economic activity and domestic work combined.
So here’s the stats….
According to the Indian government there are 20 million child labourers in India
According to other agencies there are 50 million!
Yet it is illegal in India to employ someone under 14 years of age
National Child Labour Projects programme was launched in 1988. Under this scheme, District level Project Societies are fully funded for opening up of special schools / Rehabilitation Centres for the rehabilitation of child labour.  These provide non-formal education, vocational training, supplementary nutrition, stipend etc. to children withdrawn from employment.
But only 374,255 children have been mainstreamed under the NCLP Scheme , including only 63,237 in Orissa
P2282734It may seem a drop in the ocean but one only has to think of Greg Mortenson’s 3 Cups of Tea which has the sub title “One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time” to see that every little helps to make a substantial difference to an individual, to a family, to a community, and that from small steps great changes can take place via that magnifying domino affect – raise the standard of education for girls and you raise the bar quicker and further for the next generations.  
So against all the odds Shakti has now got its third bunch of students successfully through the programme which crams 5 years of schooling into 3! and once again 100% of them are going into mainstream schooling. Our staff are just about to set out  to find the pupils for the next intake from the slum area along the main road only some 5 minutes walk from our school.   P2282803 P2282804 P2282805   P2282808 P2282809 P2282810
One  of our current fundraising quests is to find money to augment that supposedly coming from the government programme. Funds would make so much of a difference enabling us to
  • provide every child with a school uniform for everyone (like every other school child in India)
  • hire better teachers (the current budget gives the teacher only 1500 Rupees per month compared to government and private schools salaries for Primary school teachers of between 8,500 – 16,000 Rupees per month!) ,
  • promptly replace of the 18 food trays which were recently stolen by a thief who broke into the schoolroom one night
  • improve the quality of the school food, which in many cases will be the only food the child gets each day (the current allowance is 5 Rupees per day  – even at Indian prices try cooking a meal for 5 Rupees!)
  • enhance and augment the teaching materials
P2282694 P2282701 P2282706 P2282684P2282765
Here is the model annual budget for a NCLP school of 50 children
Sl. No. Items of Expenditure Amounts
1 Honorarium to Instructors:
(i) Educational (2) = (2x1500x12)                    Rs.36,000
(ii)Vocational   (1) = (1x1500x12)                    Rs.18,000
(iii)Clerk cum Accountant(1)=(1x1400x12)      Rs.16,800
(iv)Peon/Helper(1) =(1x800x12)                      Rs.  9,600
2 Stipend (100x50x12) Rs.60,000
3 Nutrition (5x50x26x12) Rs.78,000
4 Rent, Water & Electricity (1000x12) Rs.12,000
5 Educational & Vocational Materials Rs.10,000
6 Contingencies Rs.4,000

Total Rs.244,400
P2282746 P2282749 P2282752  
That budget of course assumes all of the money is actually released from the project coffers! The last entry about disbursements to projects from government on the government’s own web site was 2006-2007!
Currency exchange rates are approx  1GBP = 73 Rupees , 1 Euro = 62 Rupees, 1 US$ = 45 Rupees
Answer:  67 GBP, 79 Euro, or 109 US$ per child per year
P2282727 P2282723

Sunday 27 February 2011

Deep River by Shusaku Endo

part of my Indian Literature series

The author 

Shusaku Endo (1923 – 1996) was a highly acclaimed Japanese novelist who belonged to the Christian faith and was therefore in a member of a minority in Japan. His writings are all a vehicle for his faith, but even if you are not a believer, his writings in my opinion are always compelling reads, touching pieces of great sincerity and insight into the human condition.

The Book

Deep River (1993) by Shusako Endo


My Review

Just as tributaries of a river converge into one , so Endo brings together the spiritual journeys of 4 Japanese tourists as they undertake a tour of India in the last days of the reign of Indira Gandhi.

Numada grew up as a boy in Japanese occupied Manchuria until his parents separation meant his return to Japan. His boyhood love for the puppy he had to leave behind turns him into a writer of stories in which children communicate with animals. In later life he survives heart stopping surgery at the same time as his beloved minor bird dies. SPOLIER - His visit to India culminates in him buying and freeing a minor bird there in gratitude

Kikuchi’s story of how he survives WW2 retreat of the Japanese Army from Burma along the Road of Death thanks only to the actions of a comrade in arms makes quite an impact on the reader. In a mistaken understanding that India is mainly Buddhist, he wants to perform some Buddhist rituals for his fallen comrades and for their enemies because this comrade’s actions had haunted the comrade all his life, leading to alcohol abuse, hospitalization and his eventual death. But not before he received comfort from a European Christian volunteer at the hospital.

Izube’s wife has recently died of cancer. He’s a typical middle class Japanese manager. Throughout his marriage ha has taken his wife for granted and is surprised by her passionate deathbed plea that he re-find her when she is reborn It is this search that takes him to India. His search takes him to remote Indian villages, beggar children and fortune telling charlatans.

Mitsuko thinks she is incapable of loving another. At college she rebelled and led a wild life and now has a failed marriage behind her. At collage she goaded on a young naive boy, Otsu, who she seduces. Otsu is deeply religious and Mitsuko tries to break his attachment to his faith. She fails and he enters the training for the priesthood in France. She encounters him again there during her own honeymoon, and again years later in Varanasi on her India trip. He has been flung out of the seminary for his radical belief in an Asian Christianity but is still strong in his faith and works to ferry the bodies of the dead who have no money to the river and the still living, but dying to the free guest houses of the town where Hindus come for rebirth.

SPOILER - Their stories are tied together by the trip, which comes to its finale through the silly actions of their fellow traveller Sanjo, a young photographer. With backdrop of the murder of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, the tensions of multiple faiths, languages and cultures clash in India itself and within the tourist group. By their actual journey and their spiritual one, each of the book’s characters confront the ambiguities that are Indian culture, its castes and its religious believes, its perception that good and evil are intimately intertwined just as the dead bodies flowing in the Ganges are part and parcel of the same belief system that has people washing on its banks in the hope of rebirth. Each character in their own way finds a moment of epiphany along the banks of the sacred river.

A satisfyingly spiritual read.

Monday 21 February 2011

Nightly English practice advances forward one question at a time

If I walk home from the office any time between 5 and 6PM when it is still light I am met en route by a bunch of the nagar’s kids. They seem to spot me from a long way off and then all I hear is my name resounding and lots of running feet. The oldest goes to tuition between 6 and 8PM in addition to a  full school day and the youngest is a toddler of preschool age. There’s usually about 6 of them, all keen to practice their English with pre-rehearsed questions “What is your father’s name?” “What is your mother’s name?” “What is your grandfather’s name?” “What is your grandmother’s name?” “What are your sisters names?” “What are you brothers’ names?”   I have  to remember what I have made up and keep consistent. Early on, after the look of complete bewilderment when I said I did not have children, I became never married – just an easier explanation all round! I also invented brothers and sisters, just to give them answers to their questions. So now I have to remember that my brother in law and sister in law are now my brother and sister, my best friends are now my second brother and sister etc.
Every time it is the same questions! Nice as it is it does get monotonous! But they all get to ask and are all answered. Then just when you least expect it, Vikram inserted a new one tonight “What is your favourite game?”  Stopped me in my tracks it did and I had to think fast – playing cards was the decided upon answer – pretty safe, known in India. Received with head wobbles of agreement. Theirs? well of course cricket for the boys and badminton for the girls.  I’m taking guesses on the next question, when it will arrive and who will ask it!

Thursday 17 February 2011

Facts & Figures

Apologies for being absent from the blog for a bit. It is very busy at work. Happily, we’ve managed to fill all the field posts on one of our major livelihoods projects for which has been very difficult to find the right personnel for the money available. Project funds have finally been released but much needs to be spent by end of this financial year. Typical that government bureaucracies take all year to release funds and then expect NGOs to work miracles quickly. 
I’ve been busy writing new, and rewriting old, concept notes for funding applications, and trying to train local staff to do this. Writing good concept notes is hard at the best of times, you need to be succinct and accurate, paying attention to prospective donors requirements, keeping everything informative enough but concise. Even when English is your first language this takes time and concentration, when its your third or fourth language…..
My approach is to do some examples across the types of projects we do, get people up to speed with the process of identification of possible donors, sending these concept notes out  to donors, and tracking these. Then to work through variants on these getting staff to adapt and change existing ones, before tackling trying to write one from scratch. Only then will I address the question of projects budgets as the trainee is not confident numerically. I’ve a maximum of 9 months left here, which back home would be loads of time for such a task, but here, progress is much slower, so it feels a real challenge.
Over and above this I am working with Mr P to compile a project plan for a major transformational project which if we can get funding will make a substantial change to what the NGO is able to achieve in the medium and long term future. So that’s the challenge for the rest of this year!
Here is some of the reasons why all this desk work is needed….
  • 1 in every 10 children is disabled in India.
  • 70 in every 1000 children born in India, do not see their first birthday.
  • More than 1 in 3 women in India and over 60% of children in India are anaemic.
  • 1 in every 100 children in India between age group of 0-14 years suffers from acute respiratory infection.
  • 23% of India's children are underweight at birth.
  • More that 50% of India's children are malnourished.
  • 50% of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to school.
  • Every sixth girl child's death is due to gender discrimination.
  • 1 out of 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 4.
  • 3 lakh (3 x 100,000) more girls than boys die every year.
  • 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
  • 25% of the victims of commercial sexual exploitation in India are below 18 years of age.
  • About 80% of child labour is engaged in agricultural work.
  • 90% working children are in rural India.
  • 17 million children in India work as per official estimates.
  • 80% of these are found in the 5 metros.
  • 71% of them are illiterate.
  • 3% of India's children are mentally/physically challenged.
  • Mentally/physically challenged girls are at a particular risk to violence and abuse.
The Districts of Orissa where we work are mainly populated by Scheduled Castes  (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), formally recognised designations.  For all statistics rural areas of SC/ST are among the worse areas.
The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Orissa is 65 deaths per 1000 live births, one of the highest State levels in the country[1]. The WHO[2] report that IMR, CMR and U5CMR are all consistently higher for ST than for rural communities in general, which in turn are higher than the National figures. They report that in ST communities 6 out of 10 children are both acutely and chronically undernourished and 8 out of 10 are anaemic. All the parameters for under nutrition are higher in the ST than the National and the rural average:
57% of ST children are Underweight (Rural – 50% and National – 39%)
55% of ST children are stunted (Rural – 50% and National 45%),
29% of ST children are wasted (Rural – 25% and National 19%)
78% of ST children are anaemic (Rural – 71% and National – 67%).
Likewise with regard to Adult health ST communities:
41% of ST men (National – 34%; Rural – 38%) are undernourished with Body Mass Index (BMI) of <18.5.
47% of ST women (National – 36%; Rural – 41%) are undernourished with Body Mass Index (BMI) of <18.5.
40% of ST men (National – 25%; Rural – 28%) are anaemic.
69% of ST women (National – 55%; Rural 57%) are anaemic.
[2] WHO Report of the study to understand the Health Status & Healthcare Systems in selected tribal areas of India