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.