There are now 7 properly constructed classrooms set in a large playground, a separate toilet block with girls & boys toilets/washbasins, a detached building for teachers, meetings, library and computers (in due course) plus a rustic ‘homestay’ with its own western toilet and shower – for volunteer English teachers or visitors.
There are 6 classes – Kindergarten 1 & 2, plus years 1-4. Completion of the new buildings has allowed numbers to more than double. Pupils are grouped by ability, not age, which works well. Ages range from 4 to 11. School hours are 9 am to 3 pm weekdays (12 midday for the youngest), plus Saturday mornings for other activities, games and singing. However their enthusiasm is such that many of the children arrive at school by 8 am or even earlier!
Owing to the political and economic instability of the region, the school roll varies considerably from one year to the next. There are currently 62 girls and boys in full time primary education, most for the very first time. The school is in an area designated as being below the official Indian poverty level; what work there is commands a meagre daily rate of approximately Rs 100 a day – about £0.89. Many parents are illiterate, and few speak English.
Although, in theory, India has free primary school education, the reality is that the only other government run primary school in the area is locked and deserted so only the children of parents who can afford school fees can go to other schools in the region.
Hannah’s school accepts only children of the poorest parents. Like virtually all other schools in India, there is now a uniform. However, unlike other schools, and because of the local poverty, we provide the uniform material and also pay the costs of the local tailor who makes up the uniforms. All that the children are now required to provide are shoes and a hankie! The school is non-religious and children are from all faiths – or none. Children all walk to school, even the very youngest – for some it is well over an hour each way.