Sunday, 6 November 2011

Another brick in the wall. . .

Three years ago, Loreto Sealdah reached out to another group of children who, through no fault of their own, have no access to schooling - migrant works in the so-called 'Brickfields'.

Brickfields operate for about seven months of the year, outside the monsoon season. Migrant families are paid by the number of bricks they produce: retrieving mud from a local river, they use a wooden cast to make large bricks that are dried in the sun and later fired in a kiln. Young girls carry up to 10 large bricks at a time on their heads (weighing up to 40kilos). No schooling Is available.

Loreto decided not to criticise the owners of the brick fields for not providing access to schooling - that would simply have cut off access. So, if the children could not be brought to a Loreto school, the school would have to be brought to them. Simple.

Oh, one further complication: because these are migrant workers, the likelihood is that the same group will not work in the same brick field two years in a row. That means you get only one 'term' to deliver a life's worth of education. In practical terms, decide what you're going to cover three hours a day for six months - roughly 360 hours of contact time over six months.

No problem.

Students of Irish history will remember the Hedge Schools? In the 17th and 18th centuries, after Britain banned catholic schools, a system of teaching (typically the 3 Rs - Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic - but often covering Latin, Greek and more) emerged where teachers met local children at a hedge and taught 'al fresco'. Roll the clock forward and welcome the 'School in a Box' - all the teaching and learning materials a teacher needs to deliver a lifetime's education.

Now there are 26 schools in different brick fields catering to the needs of 1,305 children.

Another brick in the wall of eradicating poverty - through education.


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