Saturday, 18 January 2014

Finding a Balance

When the first Project Mala school was set up 25 years ago our aim was to provide a basic vocational
education to children who were working with their parents on carpet looms, where their contribution was vital to the family finances. At that time there was no other schooling available and the assumption was that after attending Project Mala Primary school, children would join their parents in the weaving
business, but literate and numerate and therefore less likely to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous
dealers and exporters. Nowadays there are government Primary schools in every village (although
standards are low) and our focus has turned to providing a high quality education for the brightest
children in the area, offering them a chance to succeed academically and to go on to higher study if they
Children and parents have different ambitions for their children these days. They don’t want their
children to follow them into the carpet weaving business but hope that they will find a professional
career. Most children will say they hope to become doctors or engineers, although in many cases these
are unrealistic expectations, and one of our tasks is to help pupils choose a course of study that will lead
to useful, remunerative and satisfying work.
There are other pupils though, who from an early age work, either with their parents or in the community, earning money and helping the family finances. Some of these, fired with an entrepeneurial spirit, can see a career ahead of them in a local business and, as they progress through the school begin to lose interest in their studies. Our task is to support their ambitions, respect their work ethic and encourage them to complete their education, as this will help them at every level in their future lives.

One of these young entrepreneurs is Nagendra.

Nagendra has a keen interest in dairy and agricultural work and can operate the different types of
instruments used for farming very efficiently. He wakes up early each morning, collects
drinking water from the village hand pump for his house and cattle and then goes to the fields. 

He works there at least for two hours and then leaves for school at 8am as his house is 4 km away, so he
doesn’t get time to study in the morning.

After school he goes straight away to his father's tyre puncture repair shop in the market and works there for 2 to 3 hours. Under his father’s guidance he is becoming a very good mechanic and can do difficult repairing work very efficiently, earning 50 to 70 rupees daily, which is a great help to his family. When he returns home in the evening he is so tired that he is unable to study and goes to sleep after taking dinner. All the work he does is affecting his studies, but he doesn't feel he has any choice.

Nagendra is very fond of playing kabaddi and football and always participates in the school game competitions. But due to the work he has to do he can’t spare much time for games.

Nagendra is a very hard working boy and struggling hard to earn money for his family. In the near future he wants to become a good mechanic with his own motor garage. To achieve his goal he is working hard, with his father in his tyre puncture repairing shop, to learn all the various techniques of repairing. But his studies are badly affected. So, the teachers of our school had a meeting with his parents, to encourage them to support the studies of their child and to make them feel the importance of education in life. Our outreach workers have convinced Nagendra and his family to try to keep a balance between study and work and they assure us that from now on Nagendra will definitely pay
more attention to his studies.

Abhishek, Guria School

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