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.
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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