Tag Archive: development


Why We should Help

AMDG

When chatting to people about the experiences of the last year, a depressingly common response is Why should we help? We have our own problems?  This I call the ‘Little Englander’ response but on the surface also it seems very reasonable.  The UK has the 6th biggest economy in the world according to the World Bank, India the 9th.  Surely this will change soon.  There have been criticism from both countries about the UK sending Aid to India.  Some Indians saying it is an insult, some British saying we should concentrate closer to home. Both are completely wrong in my opinion.  The British International Development Secretary, sensitive to such criticisms has said recently. “India itself has got 60 million children into school in recent years with its own money but more than 30 per cent of the world’s poorest people live there. There are states the size of Britain where half of all children suffer from malnutrition. We will not be in India for ever but now is not the time to end the programme.”  That is an incredible fact….. Of India’s 28 states, 10 have populations greater than 60 million.

The church punches above its weight in India particularly in its education initiatives and healthcare provision. However at times there can also be a siege mentality with the inter-religious balance so delicate. Catholics are regularly attacked and killed a terrible crime which is not well reported. Hostility, often due to forces of nationalism and fundamentalism, present warped representations of the church. Protestant fundamentalists do not help at times – with all Christians often viewed as the same by the Hindu majority.   Many communities may also be jealous because of the funding that comes from Catholics abroad.  The Indian Bishops at a recent conference released a statement on ‘The Church’s Role for a Better India’.However in this delicate climate – the church has already accomplished a lot, running 788 hospitals, many of them caring for HIV patients, a vast network of over 15,000 schools and colleges of which 54% of students are girls and 71%  are non-Catholics. It is clear that the Church’s network is doing a lot of good and unsung work for the people India. Catholic schools are the most prestigious regularly filling out the list of top performing schools. Because education is still a business in many places people are setting up schools to imitate Catholic schools. I heard  of schools called St Christs and St Jesus’s, of directors of schools insisting that all the female teachers wear habits like nuns. You regularly see in the matchmaking column of the newspapers, boasting of a girls credentials under the proud title of Convent Educated, or the prospective husbands having been Jesuit educated.  However theses works only thrive because of a woeful lack of quality and consistent provision by the state.

Philanthropy and giving by wealthy people is undergoing a bit of a revolution, courtesy of billionaires such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates (left). Warren Buffet has designed the ‘giving pledge‘ in an attempt to get billionaires to commit to giving the majority of their wealth away to charitable efforts. So far 81 have signed it including, laudably, the youngest Mark Zuckerberg and the great Elon Musk. Sadly, a wise and experienced Indian told me that philanthropy does not have the same status in Hindu thinking, echoed by this report in the Hindustan Times.  The philosophy of reincarnation dictates that your status in life, rich or poor  is deserved and there is little you should do to change it. In fact this meanness is reportedly also evident in Chinese billionaires who recently ducked a meal with Buffet in case they were asked to sign up to the giving pledge.   In my experience the happiest people I meet are the most generous, whether it be with their money or their time. The new generation of philanthropist lead by Buffet, Gates and Musk should be copied!

Success against the odds

AMDG

Yesterday was a day of celebration here in Manvi as the school received the first set of exam results.  The SSLC exams are the equivalent of GCSE‘s (public exams for 16 year olds).  Taken at the state level. The school achieved a remarkable 100% pass rate, making it top out of more than 60 schools in Manvi District.  Fr Rohan Almeida S.J. the Director of the school has written today about what this achievement means and putting it into perspective.  

Fr Rohan :  Yet again our students who appeared for the SSLC examinations have come out with flying colours. All who sat the examination from our school have passed with good marks. It gives me immense joy to tell you that some of them were grazing cows and sheep few years ago. For them to come to school and achieve this, especially in English medium is a great thing. According to me it is mainly because of the high motivation of these children that come from the remote villages and are mainly Dalits have. They have a great desire to prove that they too can achieve great things in their lives.  I thank all the teaching and non–teaching staff for motivating and encouraging these children and helping them achieve this great feat. This is a message from one of our boys, (Manesh).

 I am very delighted that I have got good marks in board exams. I am thankful to Loyola school, all the fathers and teachers who have given me an opportunity to study and encouraged me to write the exams. I want to continue my studies here in this institution and want to be an Engineer. Few years ago I was grazing cows in my village and now because of Loyola school I can dream of becoming an engineer.

The SSLC is a public examination, formulated by the regional board of education that the school is affiliated with ( i.e not an internal exam set by members of the faculty of the school).  The performance of a student in the SSLC examination is one of the factors in admission to Pre University Courses in India. Therefore, the SSLC is often regarded as the first important examination that a student undertakes. After successful completion of SSLC, a student wishing to pursue his education further would join a course based on the specialization he chooses and which gives him knowledge sufficient for him to enter an university which is sometimes called a Pre-University Course (PUC), for two years. After this a student may enter a university for undergraduate studies. Alternatively, after obtaining the SSLC, a student may choose to attend an industrial training institute where one can be trained in skills necessary for technical occupations. The other options include joining a polytechnic for a three year course of diploma in engineering and then further pursing degree in engineering after the completion of diploma. Many of our students want to do their PUC and go for the engineering and medical studies.

Many Dalit children are left to a life of illiteracy and looking after sheep or goats

Mustur Rayappa one of the parents says “Really you have brought the light to our children by starting Loyola school in Manvi. You have given us a ray of hope that even our Dalit children can study and stand equal to other children. I am grateful to Jesuit fathers who started this school and brought the best education to the poor and downtrodden in the society.”

I thank almighty God for giving us strength to carry out this Mission to educate the poorest of the poor and the marginalized in the society. I thank all the teaching and non–teaching staff for motivating and encouraging these children and helping them achieve this great feat. I thank all the benefactors and the well wishers without whose support these children would have been still grazing cows and sheep or might be working as child labourers in their villages.

New website of the school – just launched – click here www.xaviermanvi.in

To support these children – click here www.supportingdalitchildren.com

AMDG

In my opinion the transformative power of hope is not given enough credit . The population of India is an incredible 1.2billion and growing by 17 million a year.  The majority of Indians (70%) live in rural villages.  The recent census showed that majority of these rural dwellers survive on less than 35 rupees a day (or 40pence / 60cents).    Talking to some of the families in the villages here, and students and teachers it is very clear that an absence of optimism is one of the most debilitating factors in peoples lives.  Of course it understandable – rates of malnutriton, illiteracy, infant mortality and a lack of clean water are all at shameful levels in rural India. The biggest ministry in India’s Government is that for Rural Development, and to their credit they have instigated important schemes such as subsidised grain and a guaranteed programme of 100 days paid work a year for unskilled labour.

Both schemes, well meant, are crippled by corruption.  Many of the grain is pocketed by middle men, and much of the Public Works Scheme money is siphoned off by ‘ghost workers’ – invented by corrupt local officials in order to pocket their wages. This is the biggest flaw in India’s politics – that so many see it as legitimate to exploit the state in order to redistribute patronage to their kin.  Plundering the state is terrible for development.  So those worst effected, at the bottom of the pile,  feel hopeless and helpless. When you have no mental space to see beyond day-to day-survival it can lead to a certain listlessness, lack of motivation and depression. This also manifests itself in a kind of chronic conservatism, often culturally expressed, and jealousy of anyone who dares to be too successful from your village.

However there is hope…. just the witness of our children when they go back to their villages, speaking English, clean, confident, well fed seems to be having a big impact on changing this mindset.  This week many parents are bringing their children in to seek for admission for the next school year. The Jesuits are giving priority to those from the poorest families, the Dalits, the Devadasis.  At the early stages of the mission, much time and energy was put into forming womens groups in the villages, with the belief that they value education more, and more likely to ensure that the girls will not lose out.  The picture on the right shows the leaders from a womens group in a local village who brought in a large group of children to register for admission this year. Maybe they wouldn’t have come had it just been left to their families. The dynamic leaders of the women’s cooperative are ensuring that education is starting to be valued more. However this is on a macro level –  I believe change is also coming to India at a macro level.

The worlds biggest biometric database is being set up in India.  This is based on the realisation that the rural poor have no identity – no drivers licence, no passport,no bank account,  many live in villages shared by so many people with the same surname.  This makes it impossible for them to open a bank account.  If they want to migrate to work in another state, in the dead time between harvest and replanting,  they have to spend hours queuing in the sun, to pay bribes to get papers.

Things are changing: the UID (Universal Id) or Aadhar number is drastically improving rural welfare.  With iris, fingerprint and face scanners, their identity is robust, it means that they can open bank accounts, state support goes straight to them, cutting out the middleman and the loss of so much due to corruption.  Their medical and school records can become mobile. As a voluntary scheme it has been embraced enthusiastically by the poor with already 400 million enrolled into it. Observers have suggested the changes are already evident with more land coming under cultivation, dietary habits slowly changing. Sadly we have not seen this in Karnataka, when I ask the villages here they shrug and shake their heads. The sad truth is that the schemes spread is being blocked by powerful forces including the Home Minister. Why? some claim arguments that would be more familiar in the developed world, data protection, civil liberties, privacy – these all seem out of place when you share a one roomed hut with 10 others!! I suspect the real reason it is being blocked is because it is so effective at cutting out the middle man and reducing corruption.

Stories of Hope

AMDG

Fr Eric Mathias SJ (left) is the director of the educational works in Manvi and the founder of the Jesuit Mission here 10 years ago. This blog has been contacted by a few people who wanted to know more about the many children here who have been saved from a life of grazing cows and given an education.  Fr Eric has written todays entry to highlight two students (from many) whose life has changed dramatically because of their work.  

Pannur Mission began with releasing some bonded child labourers and giving them A life-changing experience  through education. All these children who were released  are doing well and are an example to others.  Let me give you some  examples of living stories of our children who were grazing cows and never ever thought  that one day they would speak in English and study in an English medium school.

Hanumanthi.  Hanmuanthi hails from a small village called Umli Hosur,  26 kms from Manvi. She was grazing cows  of the landlords and used to collect  Rs. 3,000 per year.  Loyola team met her in her village and sent her to Bijapur for literacy program. She proved herself so smart  that  we decided to send her to Mangalore to do her primary studies. As she was good in English we brought her to school in Manvi for the 8th std. She has excelled in studies and sports and brought a good name to the school. Now she is in 2nd year PUC (Pre University) and dreaming of  being an eye  specialist.  She says  that both   her mother and brother are suffering from eye trouble and so she would like to be a doctor and help out  those who have eye trouble.   She has also has a desire to be a nun at the service of people.  Though she is now in holidays she has opted to spend her holidays in visiting villages and helping to identify and register malnourished children with a team that is engaged in helping these children.  She says she gets energy and peace when she helps the poor and needy.  Hanumanthi is an example of a girl who is liberated and wants to liberate others.

Noble Raj is coming from Pannur village and at an early age engaged in grazing cows and doing some work under the landlords.  He had never been to school till he met us.  He has one brother and two sisters. He was never bothered about the loss of education till he started schooling.  One day he came to us and begged that he wanted to study and work and help out his  poor family.  We gave him an initial grounding in his studies and brought him to school in Manvi.  He has been with us past five years and  has been diligent in his studies.  He has a strong desire to be a Jesuit and to serve humanity especially the poor.He says that his eyes  were opened when  the Wimbledon group first visited Pannur in 2002 and he used to see Bro. Tim (now Fr Tim) lifting children on his shoulders and swinging the children hanging on his arms. He was thrilled when he himself had the joy of being carried on Tim’s shoulders.  He was astonished that  Dalit children were made to feel free by the  English group. They were considered untouchable by so many, even their own families, yet the boys from Wimbledon were delighted to play with them

Later, when another English visitor Dinah and her family visited his poor and simple house, he felt accepted by them and was strengthened by their love. Now he is in 10th std preparing himself for the public exams. He wants to score well and go for PUC.  Noble Raj is very helpful by nature and is a gentleman with discipline and self respect. Even now in holidays he  is staying in the school and helping out in different activities. He  has made his school as his own second  home and is cordinating a group of boys in building and maintenance works.   English medium has helped him to grow in all round knowledge.

There are many Hanumanthis and Noble Rajs in our school who will change the structure  of our society and liberate Dalit families from the slavery of moneyed people and landlords.   If you would like to help support them directly click on this link

The Vision

AMDG

Thankyou for so much interest about the educational work that the Jesuits are doing here in India.  A repeated question has been about what effect does education really have in a rural underdeveloped area like Manvi?  In a ‘developed’ country like the UK there may be a valuable question to ask about the wisdom of sending so many people to university, when many leave with degrees that may not be helpful or useful.  In that context I would agree that vocational skills can be more useful that tertiary academic education and there is no point in pushing someone who is demotivated to do a degree for the sake of it.  But here in Manvi we are talking about education at a much more basic level. Here education is the key to transforming society.  Why?  Because it changes mindsets, it encourages people to think, to challenge. It opens their horizons. In rural India, traditional ways such as child marriage or child labour, corruption, sexism, and caste discrimination all work against development.  Even deeper that that is an all-pervading sense of fatalism that comes from an ancient philosophy of time being cyclical. In the West we understand time in a lineal manner – Judaism, Christianity and Islam talk about the ‘end of time’ – Judgement Day – when the good and bad deeds of life are weighed against each other.  In many places in the East time is cyclical, judgement is through reincarnation, good karma versus bad karma.  This can produce a certain fatalism – I was born in this caste, in this village, if I don’t cause trouble, try and live a virtuous life then my next life, my next reincarnation will be favourable.

Simply Giving them a chance

So education is a force that says – you can change things, you can improve the here-and-now, you can aspire to be a doctor, engineer, teacher.  Just this morning I took a class of very motivated science students – we watched a programme about the Arctic Circle, as well as exploring ideas such as body temperature, nutrition, seasonal variation etc.  The students were fascinated by snow and ice, particularly by the phenomenon of ‘cloudy’ breath in freezing temperature. It blew their minds.  When I asked the class what their ‘coldest’ experience had been  – the furthest one of them had traveled was to Mangalore and a temperature of about 15C. So Education opens their horizons, they loved seeing an igloo being built.  We also discussed the challenge of a balanced diet.  In one of the scenes the Inuit were hunting for Whales which is their only source of vitamin C, in a terrain where nothing grows.  So this lead to a discussion about a balanced diet – and a project where the students who will go back to the villages next week will log all they eat for a month and then will investigate what vitamins or minerals are missing from their families diet.

Regarding the questions about what the students will go on to do after school – the Jesuits are building a University College on the same site. Two weeks ago – after an inspection – we received the news that ‘Loyola College’ as it is called will be affiliated to Gulbarga University and has been awarded decree accreditation powers in the fields of Computing  (BCA), Commerce (BCOM),  Social Work (BSW),  English (BA), Science (BSC).   So for the students who wish to they can now study here from kindergarten through to undergraduate level.  Already there are     students studying their PUC (Pre University) courses.  This years saw the first batch of graduates from the PUC.  Most of them will go to the college, some will write CET exam and go to medical or engineering or architecture colleges.  Some will do vocational courses like automobile, welding, electrical, electronic, plumbing, diesel mechanic, tailoring, carpentry – access to these courses is only available to children who have finished 1oth standard in school (age 15).  Since almost all of them come from families who if they are lucky rely on seasonal ‘coolie’ work – to have a skilled steady job in itself is a big achievement. I have been told that the ‘drop out rate’ i.e. thks students who don’t complete 10th standard is less than 2%n  (which is considerably less than other schools where the average drop out rate is 40% or higher).

Any help you can give or continue giving through charities such as Supporting Dalit Children really does make a difference.  I have asked Fr Eric Mathias to write the next blog about the changes he has already seen over the last 10years.

Water for All – Appeal

AMDG

Installing a 1000 litre rainwater harvesting tank.....

In the last year I have found myself living in three of four places where I wash out of a bucket. One thing I have noticed is that it makes you much more careful about how you use water. Every drop becomes precious, especially filtered or good drinking water.  I still remember the shanty town in Manila and the small home where I was staying. There were about fifteen buckets and tubs of water stacked around.  All possible rain water was collected and stored, a very precious commodity!  Here in India this is also the case – the newspapers are filled with stories of drought at the moment.  Officially on summer holiday, many of the government schools are staying open for lunchtime to ensure that the children receive at least one good meal a day (although my fellow Jesuits tell me that many of that money and food will make its way into the wrong hands).    In these conditions it is a really important service that the school serves by teaching the children – who will the teach their families  – about how to use, store and capture water wisely.

I am showing the science students the excellent BBC ‘Human Planet‘ series at the moment. Last week we watched an episode about living in the desert. As part of my preparation for the class, I looked at the annual rainfall figures here in Manvi and Pannur.  What is very clear is that all the regions in the district have seen a drop in average rainfall, thus bringing them into the category of semi-arid or semi-desers (anything under 500 mms a year).  This focuses the mind!

The Monsoon rains supply over 50% of India’s precipitation in 15 days so when they fail it is problematic.  Trapping and storing water is very important.  We have been teaching the children about rainwater harvesting – so that they will take this knowledge back to the villages.  Exacerbating the situation here in India is the rapid melting of Himalayan Glaciers which is depriving the great rivers the Indus and the Ganges of their summertime source, thus extending the long dry season.   Here in Karnataka the lifeline of the great river Krishna also flows through neighbouring Andrah Pradesh and also Maharashtra.  The rapid building of Dams in all states and diverting parts of the river has politicized water to such an extent that conflict can easily develop. In fact it is striking that India’s extremes of hydrology, population and poverty presents large difficulties for water management. Agreement to release dam water down stream and across state boundaries makes the front page of the newspapers.  As always it is the poorest who are hit the hardest by water politics and the corrupt water mafias.

Building pipes would help these children spend more time in school - Please help see link below. Even £10 can make a big difference.

Here in Manvi and Pannur  there are two different sources of water – surface water and ground water. Climate change is making surface water less reliable, so there is more stress on ground water. India is the biggest user of ground water in the world with over 2 million boreholes providing 60% of water for irrigation.  Ground Water is much more efficient for agriculture and cheaper pumps and electricity have changed the life of many of the farmers but the groundwater is finite – and shrinking – over exploitation means that bore holes run dry. Much of it is is also not drinkable and illness is common due to contaminated water and parasitic worms.  The result is that in Pannur the villagers have to walk 6 kms a day to get safe water from the river. It always seems to be the women and children who have to carry out this arduous task.  We have been asked to help – the villagers are proposing to lay a pipeline from the river to the village – which will have  a big impact on the peoples lives.  The land has been donated and the labour of digging and laying the pipeline will be free – what they are asking for are 960 20ft pipes (6inch diameter) and two 20-horsepower pumps.   If you are interested in helping! Please do…. check out this facebook page and also you can donate a small amount online by clicking on the link below.

Click here to make an online donation. 

AMDG

Great  contemporary Indian authors 

It is an arresting paradox of India – that its culture sustains one of the most vibrant literary scenes in the world, its engineers are valued and sought after, and it is becoming a dominant force in the IT sector, yet on the other hand there are more illiterate people in India that the whole of the population of the US.  I am helping train the teachers in the Pre-University-College here, we meet every day, I have been asking them questions about this paradox and what would they change about the system.  The answers ranged from better pay for teachers, reducing teacher absenteeism in government schools and a female teacher who said she would rigorously enforce the banning of child marriage and child labour.  This group of teachers has impressed me with their desire to learn, and I have shared with them teaching skills and professional practice from the UK.

Last week we discussed the findings of PISA ( Programme for International Student Assessment).  Started by the OPEC countries, who realised that as education was so important for growing a future economy, they needed an independent ‘transnational’ way of checking how successful education systems are, and how they compare to other countries.  You can’t always trust national governments to give you an accurate and unbiased picture!  Data was gathered every three years as 15-year-olds’ take a series of pen and paper tests focusing on four areas. : Literacy in maths, reading and science and finally problem solving.  This international report is growing more and more influential in the field of education, South Korea performing best in the recent test, the UK and US slowly slipping down the table. India, not in OPEC, have resisted taken part – but eventually allowed two regions, Himachal Pradesh  and Tamil Nadu  to take preliminary tests.  They came below the mean scores in the tests but interesting scored high for language skills.

A recent report from PISA results suggested that there were roughly four stages countries would find themselves. At the first, basic stage, the challenge is to centralise learning, standardize curriculums and make sure everyone is using the same textbooks etc.  Then when this in place the second stage seems to be the use of reliable exam data to identify good schools and share good practice, The third stage, perhaps where the UK is at, is then to choose the best graduates for teaching, by increasing entry salaries and raising the status of the profession.  And the final stage, where East Asian and Scandanavian countries seem to be is the opposite of the first stage  – a radical de-centralisation and allow teachers more control over curriculum and teaching.  In my limited experience it seems that at least in rural India is making the transition from stage one to two.  One of the problems is the unreliability of  the public exam system. I have been told that in the cities it is different. However it seems as though corruption is endemic.  Copying in exams seems frequent, in some places the invigilators even encourage it. There are many leaks of papers, this year being no exception.  Papers are  frequently recalled and have to be sat again, putting extra pressure on the students. One girl committed suicide a few weeks ago.  There are attempts to come to grips with it – todays news is that the Common Entrance Tests are being delayed in Karnataka after exam rescheduling because of leaked papers and also boycotts from lecturers.  The delay allows an evaluation of exam scripts but puts even more pressure on students who have other exams for civil service, police and armed forces.

This is a shame because until the exams are better regulated then there is not enough reliable data to identify good practice in the consistently successful schools and share it, at least in the rural areas where 70% still live.  It is also give another example of why the Jesuit school and college here in Manvi are so important and are becoming flagships for good education in the region.

Proud of our Ambassadors

AMDG

Today many of the children are heading home.  It is the start of the summer holidays in India (April -May) school will begin in again in June.  I will miss them being around, especially in the evenings as when their exams had finished we had began a tradition of open-air cinemas.  500 sitting under a starry sky, with a warm night breeze blowing as we projected films like ‘UP’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Karate Kid’ onto the wall.  They are a wonderful audience cheering, booing, and getting very excited if there is a kiss on the lips (very raunchy here!).   When they go back to their remote villages I have been told they will be pampered as the people are very proud that they are going to an ‘English Language’ school.  I told them at mass last night that they are ambassadors – so they must teach the other children in the villages when they go back.  Already they perform this role well – on the left is a picture of a student giving out school books and school bags to children who were most affected by the terrible floods last year.  This girl was grazing cows a few years ago – now she is distributing aid!  Like any school the most important asset is not the building or the facilities but the students themselves.  And we are very proud of them!

Alarmingly I have also been told that when they come back in May they will be a lot thinner.  The sad fact is that the food they get whilst they are in school is much more nutritional then what they can get in the villages. Malnutrition is a huge problem in rural India. Two Fifths of Indian children are still stunted by hunger according to the Economist.  To get a sense of how things can change – a recent study  in the National Medical Journal of India of wealthier Indians, found at the age of 18 boys are 4.5 inches taller and 4kgs heavier than they were in 1992, due to better food and a lack of disease.  That is an incredible change.  Living with the Jesuit community at the moment is Lenka, a social worker from Slovakia. She is doing great work travelling into the villages every day and measuring and weighing the children. She is working on behalf of St Elizabeths University in Slovakia – who with the Jesuits are running an anti-malnutrition programme.  They identify babies who according to a WHO scale are at risk of malnutrition and provide food supplements or sometimes even milk powder if the mother cannot breastfeed them.  Hopefully in the future the government, which passes a bill last November declaring everyones ‘right for food’ click, will be able to fulfill this duty, rather than relying on generous (and often religious) NGO’s.

India Shining

AMDG

A wonderful welcome... I wonder if I get to keep the poster?Sorry for the radio silence…. I arrived in India about 5 days ago and expected a few days to get my feet in Bangalore before heading off to the remote and rural district of Raichur. However nothing every goes as planned!  Fr Eric SJ  the director of the school for Dalits where I am staying very kindly met me at the airport and I was whisked off on overnight sleeper bus to Manci, Raichur.  Raichur is the most underdeveloped district in the Western Indian State of Karnataka – a literacy rate of 57%. Here electricity is intermittent and web speeds slow, so no videos for a while! But I have eventually got set up and settled in … so apologies to those waiting for a message!.

Wow what a welcome!  It is a dream come true to return here 6 years after my last visit with a group from Madrid and 9 years after my first visit.  Things have changed…. Manvi (population of 30,000) now has a bank!!  When we arrived 9 years ago – I remember walking around with 2 Australian Teachers who were with me and it felt like we were astronauts the way the local looked at us!  I even remember turning around at one point and seeing 50 children follow us, pied-piper like, copying our every move.  I was on regency as a Jesuit (before ordination) working at Wimbledon College.  It was very inspiring to see the passion and the commitment the Jesuits had for educating the children who were grazing goats and cows in the fields.  As Untouchables they were despised, illiterate and condemned to a life of grinding poverty.

From goatherding to public speaking. Fr Eric, Fr Rohan (HM), me and Fr Maxim in the background.

Back then I remember Fr Eric driving me to some fields which he had purchased and telling me about his dreams. Well what a difference – now there is a kindergarten, primary school and high school with 1400 students.  As well as  the Jesuit House, two hostels accommodating 400 students and a lake full of fish (inspired by a visit to a Trout Farm in North Wales!  It is wonderful to be here and a testament to so many generous donations from Wimbledon, Hertfordshire (click here), Madrid,  Slovakia, Germany and even my own family!

What is truly wonderful is how happy these ‘untouchable’ children are. They love being here! Especially the ‘boarders’.  On Sat we inauguarated the Manvi Film Club, 500 sitting under the stars, nice dark skies here!, as we projected the Pixar Classic ‘UP’ onto one of the school walls.  The wonderful reaction from the children, cheering, booing, laughing is a precious memory.  To help improve their English I announced a prize for the best film review – no longer than 200 words. Obviously misunderstood some of the students have written a review plus a list of 200 words taken from the film!

The next part of the adventure is the building of the First University for Dalits…. Again progess is impressive. Saturday was a historic day …. as well as Sachin Tendulkar scorings his hundredth century in International Cricket…. nice to watch it with the Jesuits here and kind of the Little Master to wait until I had arrived.  As well as the cricket, the Loyola College name was painted on the new building.  As you can see below this is no small affair.  It is amazing  to see some of the poorest despise children getting the chance to get a university degree….. the first Dalit University in the country! When all is finished there I have been told there will be over 4000 students on site, mainly Hindus, with a large minority of Christians, and the vast majority so called untouchables…

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