Monday, 11 November 2013

Jitendra: malnourished, orphaned, but still top of his class.

Jitendra belongs to a very poor family. Unfortunately his parents died when he was very young at a time when the family needed them the most. His father, Jogendra Singh, was a watch man in a private company in Mumbai. His parents were physically very weak due to lack of proper nutrition and suddenly in the year 2009 his father had a severe heart attack and died. His mother could not bear this shock and after few months she also died from Tuberculosis. That was a great setback for Jitendra’s family; his four elder sisters and one elder brother. After this double tragedy they tried to recover from their situation and his two elder sisters got married in the year 2010 with the help of an uncle and both now live in their husbands' homes.  
Jitendra with his family
Jitendra lives with his two elder sisters, Sujata (15 years) and Pooja (13 years). Sujata left her studies after class 5 to remain at home and she does the household work and takes responsibility for her siblings. His other sister, Pooja, is studying in class 7 in a government school. Three years ago, Jitendra's elder brother stopped his education and went to Mumbai in search of a job and is now working as a taxi driver. The three children live in poor conditions; there are two rooms in the house, one brick room and another one made with mud. There are no facilities such as electricity, drinking water or toilet  and, for drinking water, they are totally dependent upon the government hand pump. They don’t have any property like agricultural land, cattle etc. 

Jitendra is very regular and punctual to school and works very hard. He goes to school daily in the morning with his elder sister Pooja, bare footed.  Their financial condition is so poor that they don’t have enough money to buy shoes. 

Jitendra and Pooja walking to school
His elder brother who lives in Mumbai sends 2000 Rupees (£20) every two months as the only source of income for his family, which is not sufficient to live on.  

After school Jitendra goes to the nearby fields to collect dry fire wood which his sister uses to prepare food as they have no other cooking fuel like a gas or kerosene stove.  After school he also works in his uncle’s agricultural field and in return for that, his uncle gives him some food grains and vegetables for daily consumption.

Jitendra playing Carom with classmates
We felt very sad when we realised that the reason that Jitendra only wants to play indoor games and has no interest in outdoor games is that he is physically very weak and always scared that he might get injured while playing cricket, kabaddi or football: if he were injured then how would his family arrange medicine for him? from where would the money come? Who would do his daily routine work? So, he just plays indoor games like carom, chess, ludo etc.  Jitendra has a very shy nature. He can sing well but he is a bathroom singer and always hesitates to perform in front of others. Thus he rarely takes part in the cultural activities at school. 

However, Jitendra is a very talented student and struggling hard just to exist and help his family. In the future he wants to be a doctor so that nobody in his area would die due to a lack of proper treatment as did his parents. In spite of his adverse living conditions he performed very well in the annual exam of class four held in March 2013, secured 98.62% marks and stood first in the class. His attendance record is 99% and Science, Math, Hindi and Drawing are his favourite subjects.

At home he studies in the sunlight and in the evening with the help of a candle or kerosene lamp. Due to malnutrition his eye sight has gradually become weak, so our school has provided him with spectacles after a proper check up from an eye hospital. 

Jitendra has a nutritious breakfast and lunch each day.

He tells us that he gets a proper meal only in school, and rarely has proper food at home. Project Mala is now providing him with full support. As he is physically very weak, Project Mala provides food supplements, vitamin pills and regular medical check-ups and his health is improving. 

Since he has been wearing glasses he has also found it easier to study.
We are confident that with continued support Jitendra will be able to do very well academically. He is certain to qualify for our Middle school next year and we will be keeping an eye on his progress and on his health.

Report written by Abhishek, Project Mala School, Guria.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Solar Power comes to Amoi Primary School

Thanks to a donation from a generous sponsor, we have been able to install solar panels at Amoi school, one of our remotest primary schools.

The new solar panels are inaugurated

This means that a rather dark classroom can now be used for classes, even during winter, when light levels are low.

Amoi School - solar-powered lighting at night.

With solar power, we are also able to charge a DVD player, audio players and laptop and projector system so that children can benefit from audio visual resources, including English Language CDs and Videos.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Raising Money for Project Mala - New York ING Marathon November 2013

In January 2012 I travelled to Uttar Pradesh, a state in Northern India, to visit the Project Mala schools based at Guria and five other locations in the rural regions around Mirzapur. Although I was there mainly to assist the office staff with a project, I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with the children and even to teach a class 9 group at the Guria school. 
Jacob with class 9 pupils - Feb 2012

Like everyone who sees the schools, I was completely bowled over by the intelligence and enthusiasm of the children, the dedication of the teachers, and the safe, clean, studious but happy environment that Project Mala provides. Unlike most of the local government schools, Project Mala gives children from the region a real opportunity to learn, to develop, to play sport and to develop the sort of vital life skills that they can take back with them to their villages. As soon as I left I began making plans to return and did so at the beginning of this year, when I saw how new projects have taken shape including boarding facilities at the Guria school and a pre-school for girls at Turkahan.

All of this work inevitably costs money. In some ways, not a huge amount: Project Mala has almost no expenses in the UK while salaries and raw supplies are generally less costly in India, but still of course monthly overheads have to be covered and new projects funded and I'm eager to do anything I can to help make sure this happens.

London marathon 2012

One of the few things I can do is run - last year I ran the London Marathon and I intended to follow it up with the New York Marathon in November. Sadly the event coincided with Superstorm Sandy hitting New York and the event was understandably cancelled. 

Training in the French Pyrenees - August 2013

I haven't given up though - another year of training has done me good, and this November I will be back in New York and setting off on a run that goes through all five boroughs and finally ends in Central Park. 

I'll be running in a shirt with the Project Mala website URL on, in the hope of raising some awareness of the organisation, and I'd also be delighted if anyone who wants to, sponsors me on my JustGiving page - all money raised goes directly to funding food, uniforms, building maintenance, teachers' salaries, and other vital expenses in giving Project Mala pupils the best possible education.


Jacob Bate

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Interview with Maya

A senior pupil at Project Mala school, Guria, explains how she overcame her shyness and gained confidence in speaking English.

When I met Maya first she was a class 8 pupil at Project Mala school Guria and I was in her class to choose the most confident and fluent English speakers to be guides for a group of visiting sponsors from the UK and USA. We were about to have a grand opening of the new school at Turkahan and were planning a programme of events and entertainment for our visitors. The children in class 8 had never had an opportunity to speak with native English speakers before and I was to work with them to prepare them and give them confidence. However, first I had to choose which pupils to use and so I took them in small groups to assess their ability.
Maya was one of those who refused to speak at all. Although all the children had been learning formal written English for some time, and had a knowledge of grammar that would put UK pupils to shame, they seldom if ever had the chance to practise spoken English and many of them were understandably shy at first. Maya could do no more than whisper her name and age and say 'yes' or 'no' and I soon turned my attention to the more confident members of her class.
Within a few weeks these children were transformed. They were able to chat happily with their English speaking visitors, to show them round the schools and accompany them in the minibus, pointing out features of Indian life in the villages around. At the school opening in Turkahan, local journalists covering the event expressed amazement that children from the villages were speaking English so fluently and back at school the other children were also inspired to speak more and to set their sights higher.

Maya remained very shy and silent, however, and I did not realise what an affect the event had had on her. It was only earlier this year that we put on a big event at Guria for past students. Maya was onstage with a microphone as English speaking compere, offering a translation from the Hindi. I could not believe the transformation. She is now one of the most fluent English speakers in the class and her confidence has soared as a result so that she is performing much better academically across all her subjects.

Her story is so interesting that I asked her if she would be prepared to be interviewed. Her English is not perfect by any means, but she is now a confident speaker in her second language and this will stand her in good stead when it comes to further study and finding a job.

Transcript of interview

Anne:  So Maya, the other day, you were in charge of speaking English in front of all the guests, and I was thinking when I saw you in class 8 you were very very shy and would not speak at all. What happened?
Maya:  Actually Mam that time I was afraiding so much to the England speaker and they were mm (pause) Actually I was fearing so much to the England people and there was a lack of meaning in front of me so I could not speak that time. And after some time when I saw that there were so many students of my class are speaking English very much and they are very good in English, they can talk to the other (English) people but I was not able to speak that time. Because the matter was that I could not speak in front of them. I was fearing so much and I thought that that time, I thought that I cannot speak in English but when I had gone to the home that time there was my brother at the home. And he said to me, ‘What’s happened? Why are you weeping at home?’ and I said to him that I could not speak English in front of them. So that time he said, ‘You can speak, but if you will have courage’.
That time I thought that is correct and that I should try to speak in English and after some time he said to me, ‘You can join the coaching centre’. And for two months I joined the coaching centre. I could not get something special from there but I get some hints, like as that he said to me that you can learning meaning so much and you can improve your English. And he said to me, ‘If you get the any man you should like to talk with him’.
And when I started that there were so many problems in front of me, but I was – I started to speak. And after some time the teacher met to me and said, ‘You can speak in English, but if you will talk to me nearabout one month’. And then I started to talk with him and after one month he said, ‘You can speak in front of anyone, but you are not a speaker of English. Now you have to try again and again for speaking English’.
Anne:  Mmm, that’s very good advice. And you followed it?
Maya:  Yes Mam.
Anne:  And now you are really an excellent English speaker.
Maya:  Thank you Mam.
Anne:  That’s such a nice story. And now what are your ambitions for the future?
Maya:  Actually Mam when I will get the good marks in High Schools, then my brother have thought that he will take admission in a good school but if I will get bad marks in High School he will be very sad to me. And …(Pause).. before six months I was failing and my study has gone last. And nearabouts two months I am studying and I am trying a lot to do best, but if I will not success again I will try to best.
Anne:  Yup. And you are thinking maybe of studying commerce?
Maya:  Actually I am… I have not heard about it. Actually this is the time of my High School (exams – equivalent to GCSE)
Anne:  So you are waiting for your results?
Maya:  Yes
Anne:  Mmm – very sensible.
Maya:  Thanks Mam. And Sir said to me that I am taking… and we are the students of Babusarai (Local government High School) and our village is the same. And if we will take the commerce we can study both and if any question is coming in our mind we can solve it to meet each of us. Then I have said that I will take the commerce but I have not decided it.
(Not all schools have the option to study commerce. Maya and her classmates have been given helpful advice by our Principal and his staff, but are awaiting their final exam marks  before they choose where they will study for High School – the equivalent of 6th form here.)

Anne: Ok, Well done. Thank you so much.