What We Do
Our mission is to help girls in the dalit * communities in Kanchipuram succeed in school and to go on to further education.
This is not simple, and it is not enough to go to school every day when you come from such dire poverty. Usually neither parent is literate, and they barely understand the need to educate their sons, far less their daughters.
SED works on multiple fronts, helping the girls with their school work, providing them with the life skills they will need to fight oppression and discrimination, improving their home environment and celebrating learning as a community.
The programme has nine axes, each tackling different aspects of the difficulties the girls face in completing their schooling.
Scholarship for bus fares, uniforms and books
Just the cost of the bus fares, school uniforms and books are prohibitive when each parent earns barely 100 INR a day as an agriculture labourer (€1.30). Each girl in the programme personally receives INR 1’000 per year (€13) to cover the cost of her books, uniform and bus fares.. We help the girls open their own bank account, also part of the empowerment process.
Residential Education and Life Skills Camps
Each girl has weaker subjects, and whilst the village learning centres help her with her homework on a daily basis, it is during the two annual residential camps, that a host of school teachers are on hand to get her back up to speed. The good, wholesome meals we provide are also appreciated and commented on, so not a given in their home environment.
Annual Educational or Cultural Outing
Living in a rural setting with very bad public transport, most of the girls have not been out of the district. In order to open their minds to the bigger world, we take them on an annual one day cultural or educational outing. The 2020 outing was to the Periyar Science and Technology Centre and the B M Birla Planetarium Chennai, where the girls – amongst all the scientific things they discovered – experienced air conditioning and upholstered chairs for the first time
Village Learning Centres
Help with homework is not always easy when you live in one room with the rest of your family and your parents are illiterate. This is where the village “learning centres” come in: the girls (and indeed any other child in the village) can get help here. It is often the older ones who help the younger ones at these group homework sessions held outside the “village teacher’s” home
One of the joys of literacy is the opening of the mind and the discovery of new ideas. Cultivating this passion plays a key role in remaining literate after leaving school. The library is in fact a set of bags filled with books which travel from village to village. Children from the whole village are invited to borrow books and then to meet on Saturday with the “village teachers” to discuss what they have read and present it to the other children. The children devour the books which cover a wide range of subjects, from the more academic, to life skills, novels, and of course, Hindu mythology.
Library Learning Day
Sharing and celebrating the world of education and books is vital to reinforce the pleasure and importance of education, and the annual Library Day is attended by some 65 children who come together for games and learning, and to share their passion for education
Workshops for Mothers and Fathers
It is not easy for the girls to bring about a radical change in the mindset of their home environment, but we run one day workshops for the mothers, and another for the fathers, to help. Subjects such as the importance of girl’s education and harmony at home are discussed, as well as other issues such as the prevalence of alcoholism and abuse. As a result of the last father’s workshop, and at the request of his daughter, one father stopped drinking for example. We hope this will have a snowball effect as alcohol is the biggest disruptive force in the community
Health is another issue as the girls have little or no access to a doctor until they become seriously ill. We provide an annual health check-up for each scholarship girl, and indeed to any other member of the village who would like one
The girls are under a lot of pressure both at home and outside, and a lot of things can “derail” them from their school activities. SED provides on-site support to the girls by keeping in regular contact with all 120 of them, to ensure that all is well at school and at home, and to anticipate any issues they might have.