The Summer holidays are drawing to a close. A time for those last-minute trips to the beach, end of summer barbecues, and the expensive trips to shop for all the school necessities. New uniforms, stationery, books, backpacks and lunch boxes.
Families are either anticipating or dreading the start of a new school year. For most, these days are similar to the Sunday evening blues, just much more pronounced and intense. For others, it is the beginning of their journey along the path of academia.
That “back to school” time for children is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Some cannot wait for school to begin, while the rest expel tears at the thought of it.
I hope that for many of you, there is a familiar pang of nostalgia as you recall your favourite memories of School. No matter how old we get, how successful we become in life, the mere mention of school opens the floodgates and those sweet and sour nostalgic memories start pouring in.
As a child from the age of 4-5 years old, we hated that moment we had to leave the comfort of our beds and the sweet morning dreams to get ready for school. We did resist, but were thrown out of bed, nevertheless. And this never changed, not for any of those 12 years or so.
Once in school, we met our greatest companions, swiftly checked our secret crush’s presence, discussed what we had watched on TV and were reminded of the homework due for submission that day!
The school day
The school day started with the ceremonious morning assembly. We closed our eyes and silently prayed for better marks or to sit next to our ‘crush’ sometime soon. This was followed by school news, more prayers and a hymn.
Then classes commenced. One of the most boring parts of school life, made bearable due to the occasional commentary by the backbenchers and class comedians.
Thankfully, I happened to have a favourite teacher who played a major role in making even the dullest subject seem interesting as I strove to please. This teacher was sadly not responsible for maths and science lessons; during which, time had a way of slowing down as I gazed at the clock constantly.
Lunchtimes were always fun as we indulged in senseless and sometimes informative chats with close friends.
The second unbearable half of the school day would see the bobbing up and down of pens frantically copying down notes and faces blankly staring back at the teacher. Sports periods were eagerly anticipated by the more athletic in the class, not by me!
Eventually, the time came for us to be dismissed, but not before having to pass through the enemy checkpoint. Our attire was scanned from top to toe. Were our ties neatly knotted? Were we properly wearing our blazers and school hats, or caps? Were our skirts the correct length and were our socks pulled up? Violators were pulled out like criminals and a sermon was given. After all, we were representing our school establishment and wouldn’t want to let our school down … would we?
And then we were off home once again, some hours of solitude, and homework, before the cycle started again the next day.
Growing as individuals
Wherever our own personal memories have taken us, undoubtedly school was a place where we grew up as it moulded us into disciplined and knowledgeable people. Other than our parents it was the longsuffering teachers who praised us, supported us and sometimes scolded our mistakes, but always guided us on the right path. They were our role models and our inspiration.
Education in rural Asia
So, how do our random memories of school life compare to what children in rural parts of India and the Philippines experience? Well, for those whose parents have the financial means to send them to school, probably quite similar. For others, because most adults in rural villages are living in poverty, they have never been to school themselves. Education for their children is consequently beyond their means and often considered a waste of time and money. Its outcome is perceived to be uncertain and unimportant.
Instead of going to school, children contribute to their households by either working in the fields or looking after younger siblings. As a result, adults and children are powerless to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.
Poor children grow up to be poor adults who then pass on debt to their children. The lack of financial security exposes children to all forms of abuse and exploitation. Child labour in particular is a massive problem throughout Asia. Sending a child out to work, or to beg, from as young as six is an all too acceptable option for rural families. Many children are sold into bonded labour for money which is desperately needed at the time but doesn’t last long; children being forced into a lifetime of suffering through no fault of their own.
Access to education is one of the most critical needs in a child’s daily life and my visit to India showed me a side of life I could never have imagined.
I have seen first-hand how important it is to create opportunities for the ones that are powerless to do so for themselves.
Giving children access to education
Vision for Asia’s child sponsorship programme is working with partners in West Bengal, Southern India and three mountain villages in the Philippines. The prime focus being to educate and empower the sponsored children, and to give them the opportunities to achieve their dreams.
“For years educating my children was not my priority. My priority was earning money for survival. But now I know that my children’s futures are of equal importance. They are doing well at school and I know they will do well in life.”A parent – West Bengal
The West Bengal children are taught up to grade 4, and once they have passed their exams in Bengali, Maths and English, they are able to gain entrance to the state school. It is so exciting that since the school started in January 2016, 54 children are continuing their education at the neighbouring state school.
The 30 children we support in the Philippines sat their end of year exams at their respective schools in April. When I received their results, I was overwhelmed by how well they had all done. The pass mark is 75% and every child passed each subject with an average mark of 85%.
“I am trying to study well so that I can become a Nurse and be able to help my auntie and uncle.”Maria – Philippines orphan
An enthusiasm for learning
These bright students share an enthusiasm for learning, and we are seeing them thrive now that they have been given this opportunity.
Together with our generous sponsors, we aspire to make a difference to the daily lives and future possibilities of every child. To allow them the opportunity to reflect on their schooldays in the same way as you and I are able to do.
“My son, Alokesh, is eager to get up in the morning to go to school. He enjoys learning new things and is sad when the holidays arrive and there is no school.”A parent – West Bengal
Can you help?
Please partner with us by sponsoring a child for just £5 a month. Through your support, we can help these children get the tools they need to succeed in life.
Contact [email protected] for more information on the sponsorship programme, and the information you can expect to receive about your sponsored child.