The Numbers Perspective! Sounds like a title of a Robert Ludlum thriller doesn’t it? Come to think of it is is a thriller in its own right: the numbers referred to are the (ill)famed marks that a student secures in her or his class XII examination. They will the chart the child’s entire future.
The dreaded results are out and once again we are caught in the dilemma of whether to celebrate or not. The topper this year got a whopping 99.04 % with 100% in two subjects. Just like Project Why children, she is from Delhi but that is where the comparison ends. According to her dad the reason behind her success is that she did not miss a single class and has not taken a single holiday for TWO YEARS not to forget intensive coaching and a supportive family. And that is not all, the candidate she beat by 0.1 % candidly admitted on TV that she had learned every line of every school book by heart!
Project Why children too have cleared their Boards with success, with the top percentage being Kapil with his whopping 92%! That is a real feat when you live in a tiny hovel, have a drunk parent who disrupts your studying, a TV blaring around you, only 2 short hours at Project Why in the name of coaching and illiterate parents who rather than supporting your efforts tend to undermine them. In these circumstances the 92 % beats the highest of marks. So we at Project Why are celebrating big time!
Nevertheless we cannot ignore the reality that stares at us. With 99.04% as the benchmark, the cut off marks for admission in State run and thus affordable universities will hit the sky and children from Project Why will not make the cut. Though there are some seats reserved for sports and creative pursuits, once again our children miss the opportunity as their schools and families cannot help them excel. Private universities are unaffordable and so the options are few: evening classes or distance learning. In most cases they need to work to pay for their studies. Two of our old students teach at Project Why so that they can continue their studies.
This was not always the case. One upon a time, and yes it does sound like a fairy tale now, toppers were in the sixty percentile. What that meant was that the difference between the topper and the student with the lowest marks would be about 30+%. Today the pass percentage of 33% remains unchanged so the difference becomes a whopping 66%. There is something terribly wrong.
Exams earlier had questions that demanded reasoning and thinking like the dreaded precis in English and numerous essay type questions in other subjects. Getting 100% was quasi impossible. Over the years the evaluation yardstick changed and the result was that children belonging to underprivileged homes quietly dropped out of the net of higher education.
This is a worrying situation as many students who are thus denied the opportunity to study could have accessed avenues now closed to them and excelled. It is time decision makers looked at this problem seriously otherwise education for all becomes devoid of meaning.
To put things in a different perspective the topper of the prestigious IAS (Indian Administrative Service) was declared last week. The topper 52.49 %.
It was dental checkup time for children from the special section, the creche and the primary section. This was the first dental check up at Project Why and was made possible thanks to our friend Neena Gulabani from the Anubhav Learning Centre. Two young dentists Rinku and Shweta spent the morning peering into small and not so small mouths. The children as always behaved perfectly though one or two of the tiny ones got a bit frightened. The doctors gave the children toothpaste and told them to brush TWICE a day. Some need dental care and we are working towards a solution.
The star of the day however was Ganga. She decided to express her gratitude and ours too by performing a lovely dance for the visiting doctors. It was such a special moment and we invite you to share it with us. What makes this so poignant is that little Ganga has a terrible skin condition that may be life threatening.
Sometimes God’s ways are difficult to understand for us mere mortals!
Project Why’s relationship with Germany began way back in 2007 when Hans Emde, a rather forbidding person with a heart of gold, visited Project Why and decided to set up Project Why Deutschland e v in Köln. From that moment the doors flew open and Project Why’s discovery of Germany began.
Volunteers and visitors brought their own special German touch, a far cry from the image many carry of Germans, especially in India.
We were treated to big German lads like Lukas and Enrico who most surprisingly chose to work with the tiniest of kids and who even more surprisingly wept like babies when it was time to leave. Needless to say, Lukas came back many times and Enrico sent his little brother Dario this spring.
Then we had the ladies who walked into our hearts: Julia, Claudia, Sabine, Myla, Carla and many others. Each displayed incredible warmth and generosity and craftedbonds lasting a life time. Needless to say ALL have become staunch supporters and donors.
Project Why Deutschland walked that extra mile by making the exchange mutual when they invited Rani and Shamika to Koln in February 2009. Germany is the first country that Rani has visited, making the leap from a tiny India slum to a buzzing German city, creating memories she will carry for a life time.
That is not all. The Project Why Deutschland helped us in many more ways. They were the ones who gave to three young hearing impaired girls state-of-the-art hearing aids, allowing them to hear their first sound.
One of the qualities Germans have in abundance is meticulous organisation, a non-existent one in India! We are grateful for all those who have shared this quality with us. Eva taught English to the Okhla kids and staff, braving all odds, Ayse brought a healing touch to the special kids and Arthur is at present painfully pouring over statistics and figures to help us document our work in a professional manner. The fact that the temperature is a scorching 45 C is proof of the extent of commitment Germans have!
Today, at a time when Project Why is in need of a long due makeover, Carla our elected mentor, is holding our hand and gently leading us into the world of reports, organigrams, budgets, projections and more; we would be lost without her. What is truly touching is that she is ever present and always smiling.
We are grateful to Hans to have opened up a new world to us. We are grateful to Julia and Claudia who are always there for us and jump on a plane to see us when needed. We were particularly touched when Claudia made a trip to Project Why, leaving her toddler behind. That is what love is all about.
The little beds in this picture take us back to a childhood fairy tale where a little girl ‘dared’ to sleep on a bed only to be chased away by a family of bears. The Project Why fairy tale is a little different. These little beds are in a boarding school dorm and invite children to make these their own should they aspire to quality education.
All children aspire to quality education; it is also their constitutional right. Sadly for many the aspiration remains a dream rarely fulfilled. In India for too many children quality education remains inaccessible. What they get is a wasted array of options all falling short, particularly for those born on the wrong side of the divide.
At Project Why we attempt to better the education imparted in State run schools to the best of our ability. We do somewhat succeed but are aware of the reality that so much more needs to be done to provide the enabling environment a child needs to bloom.
Amidst all our programmes there is a tiny one that ticks all the boxes. Seven children are being quietly educated in a boarding school on the outskirts of Delhi.
Many have been skeptical and even critical of this programme that sounds elitist and out of sync with the approach Project Why believes in. That is not quite the case.
Project Why is a firm believer in the neighbourhood state run school attended by children from diverse social strata. That was true once but over the years the advent and mushrooming of private schools that profess to teach English has seen the migration of many children till what is left in state run schools are the poorest of the poor. State run schools are no more level playing fields.
Yet the belief that children from the poorest homes can excel if given the right environment is something that Project Why believes in. When unforeseen and perilous circumstances arose and a child was in need of a safe environment, it was time to put theories to test and begin our boarding school programme, the best option to secure a enabling environment for a underprivileged child. Six others would follow.
The other question often posed, one that is ethical, was how was the selection of children made and why one and not the other. The answer to this question is that it was circumstances that led to the choice: two third degree burn survivors with dysfunctional homes; a young girl whose heart surgery was sponsored by Project Why and who instead of being in school was found working; a child who was adopted then abandoned. All were children who were at the risk of being exploited and abused.
This may not be a satisfying answer as there are millions of children in the same situation.
The only answer that can be given is that these kids were chosen by someone we like calling the God of Lesser Beings and we were His instrument.
When you see the pictures below, you will realise that some of these kids have been with us for many years, since when they were tiny. Their destiny was linked to that of Project Why. Once we held their hands there was no going back.
Her name is Kashmira. She lives in the US and though she has never visited Project Why in person, she had been one of its staunchest supporters. She has walked into Project Why’s heart through a screen! Over the years she has supported our work financially, but more than that, her words of encouragement and love are sent before we ask for them, as if she knew intuitively that they were needed. The precious time she devotes to our children makes her so special.
A few years back she informed us about a jewelry crafting initiative,that she named Sadafulee – ever blooming – that she set for helping our kids. With every pearl she threaded and every knot Kashmira tied she wove dreams for little children she had never met. As she put it so well: “This venture comes from my passion for art and for helping underprivileged children. I plan to donate most of the proceeds from this store to a charity working with slum children in India. I am hoping the universe will help me grow this store to help the children to “always bloom”!
Recently when funds were needed to help Manisha get an artificial arm she was the first to take on the challenge and managed to raise much more than what was needed.
When funds were needed to help a desperate kid she decided to revive Sadafulee. Her absolutely stunning pieces are available through her Facebook Page.
We have no words to express our gratitude and love to Kashmira. The only way we can do it is by continuing the work we do with renewed commitment and energy