Projects - Education

Sister Jessie believes that only through education can people overcome or at least question their status.  Traditionally, most of the children in these villages are forced to work at home, some as early as age five, while their parents go in search of whatever work is available during planting and harvesting seasons.  Those who do attend school are often discouraged from continuing since Harijans are not expected to have an education.  The condition of women is still more deplorable.  In fact, in some situations baby girls are even destroyed at birth.  Sister Jessie believes that through education, the situation will change and people will be motivated to help themselves and others cross over caste barriers.

Today, Sister Jessie supplies 14 teachers to provide basic education (reading, writing and arithmetic) to women and children in 30 villages.  These 30 villages are divided into two sections of 15 centres each.  There are 7 teachers for each section with some teachers responsible for two or three centres.  The centres are set up under trees or on the verandas of public buildings or temples.  The teachers are high school students and graduates of various castes, mostly Harijans, encouraged to teach in their own village or a neighbouring one.

Every student attending a centre pays Rs.4 or Rs.5 per month.  Teachers are paid around Rs 1500 a month (about $30 Cdn), with more going to those with greater seniority.

As added incentives for the teachers, Sister Jessie provides an umbrella allowance as well.  All the teachers are provided with enough money to buy an umbrella during the rainy season.  For those who have to travel some distances to reach the villages they teach in, Sister Jessie provides them with money to buy a bicycle.  The bicycle is kept at Sister Jessie’s compound where the teachers pick them up each day and travel to and from their teaching posts. Most of the teachers are young married men with families.  There are no female teachers.

With respect to the curriculum, at the beginning of each month Sister Jessie conducts a training session to train her teachers in creative teaching methods.  Every three months the children are tested to make sure they have absorbed what was taught.  Sister Jessie meets with the teachers after the tests are administered and she herself goes through the test papers.  Once the students have acquired the basics, since secondary education is free in India, the students are encouraged to attend public school.  

As of late 2003, Jessie was thinking about expanding the buildings behind the ashram to provide room for residential schooling.  Her goal is to provide vocational training for local girls.  Training would include: knitting, sewing, gardening, child health and care, and basic education.

Update Feb 24th, 2004 - Seeing Seeds Grow

In late 2003, Jessie decided to close down several schools due to poor progress by students and lack of attendance.  After a couple of months, many of the parents from these areas got together and begged Jessie to reopen the schools - many of their children "were getting lost" without the formal education.  This is a great sign of how important education is becoming to these poor areas.  Seven new assistant teachers will be trained under the two long time teachers Eshwar Shanker and Basudev and sent out to reopen seven of the schools.