Remember when I said that my lack of sleep was going to catch up with me? Well… it didn’t take as long as I was expecting. I completely crashed today. When I got back to the house after school, I took a quick 20-minute nap that turned into a not so quick 3-hour nap. Ha. Oops.
Normally, I would try to just hold out for the weekend, but brace yourself to hear the worst thing ever… They have school on Saturdays. SCHOOL ON SATURDAYS. I also somehow JUST found this out because they’ve had school holidays on the two Saturdays since I’ve been here (one because they get off on the second Saturday of each month and one for Easter). At first, I thought that they just had chapel in the morning, but no, after that, they have two classes! CLASSES ON SATURDAYS. They get off at 11:30, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s SCHOOL… ON SATURDAYS.
The school coordinator literally laughed at me when she told me this and my jaw dropped. I just… that’s horrible! I know that I’m supposed to say that just because things are different here doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but this… this is so wrong. I am a big supporter of vacation time and weekends and not working on the weekends. How am I supposed to survive the week if I have literally ZERO days to sleep in? Six days a week I have to wake up for school, and on Sundays, I have church. I know, I know. I’m complaining. But did I mention that they have school on Saturdays??
Speaking of the school, I realized that I haven’t explained much about it and how I ended up there. The missionary couple who is hosting me (I’ll have to tell their story sometime too… it’s awesome!) started the school. To give you the short history, they moved here without a plan. They didn’t already have the idea to start a school; they just came and observed and decided that it was something that the community needed.
Ruth said that she and Pastor Daniel used to take walks around the city, and they saw so many kids who weren’t in school for one reason or another, often money problems or because they were girls. At the time when they first came (around the year 2000), many people here still didn’t see education as important for girls. Girls are already expensive because they need money to get married, so why send them to school and spend even more money on them? (Women/their families often have to pay a dowry/bride price as part of marriage agreements. Apparently there are laws against this now, but as far as I can tell, they’re not very effective.)
They started out by setting up free classes that were open to all kids. They taught them songs and Bible stories and gave them something to do besides roam the streets, and the number of kids grew and grew until they had 300-400 kids showing up. Can you imagine? 400 kids! Eventually, this transformed into a small school that started with just kindergarten and then grew with the kids. Now, they have Pre-K through 10th standard. Here, after 10th standard, the kids take board exams that determine where they can go to school for “+2”, or the equivalent of 11th and 12th grade. It’s normal for kids to go to a different school for +2, and many schools are just Pre-K to 10th. After that, they take another round of board exams and can go to college to get a bachelor’s degree in 3 years.
The families pay what they can towards tuition, and the rest is covered by scholarship. Some kids are on full scholarship and even get their books, uniforms, and other materials provided. The classes (besides language classes) are all taught in English. People speak a lot of different languages here (Hindi, Nepali, Bengali, and more), so English is the language spoken in a good number of schools in the area. It’s a Christian school, but students and teachers of all faiths are welcome. The kids have morning assembly where they sing Christian songs and such and have chapel on Saturday, and the teachers have a prayer time after school each day. Everyone is required to participate but obviously not forced to believe.
Pastor Daniel said that they’ve had parents who transferred their kids out because of the participation requirement, and within the year they were begging for their kids to be readmitted because they realized the quality of the education they’re getting. Beyond just classwork, there’s a strong moral education, and the kids are taught to behave appropriately, take care of themselves, and be respectful and kind to others.
From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a cool place. The teachers all seem to get along well, and they actually care about the students. The kids act like kids, but they definitely are polite and respectful. I’m learning a lot from working there, both from the students and the other teachers. It’s an interesting dynamic with the coming together of so many different types of people, but it works!