Prabhatalloi Foundation’s Morning School
A morning session is held at PAF for local children who don’t otherwise get the encouragement they need at school; some in fact are ostracized by teachers and students. If students are lower caste (poor, basically) then they are not expected to get ahead in life, or really to have aspirations. Even their own parents raise them to accept the life they have been born into. Giving them aspirations can even be dangerous because opportunities aren’t necessarily available to them.
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to liken this to one aspect of the racial struggle which exists in America, which I will do my best to explain but perhaps others can better articulate: Poorer communities are often disproportionately African-American, especially in urban areas, and teachers can tell you that some students who have trouble succeeding in school often aren’t getting the encouragement at home that you might expect. This results from a cycle of systemic racism which began from an actual lack of opportunity and very real oppression, but which continues not only through tangible acts of racism but ironically as a coping mechanism for the problem itself. Parents may teach their children how to get by within realistic means rather than risk wasting time and draining emotional reserves by chasing opportunities which might not exist.
What PAF is able to do here is provide this morning session before school. A tarp is laid out and everyone sits down with their notebooks and follows the day’s lesson. Time has shown that the students who come to this morning session have performed better at their state school and have stayed in school longer. PAF also provides money for some to go on for further education, or for “tuition” which is what they call tutoring sessions. PAF’s old van is now used to bring those students to their “tuition” which gives them another leg up in their education. At the end of school each morning each child gets three biscuits, after which they take off for their state school. Robert once noticed one child wanting to save a biscuit for later, but she couldn’t fit it inside the container she had brought so carefully nibbled the sides down until it fit. They’re sweet kids really and it’s a joy to see them in the morning.
Tuesday 1/10 and Wednesday 1/11 the kids at school had what in America we call a field day. On Tuesday the main sport was a race. Lines are drawn on the grass with bleached sand and they race to the other end, pick up a chocolate that’s placed on a notebook, then sprint back to the finish. One of the girls is very fast, and I think she has won some larger competitions for her school or district. She was very competitive, and when she reached the finish line she would toss her chocolate to her younger brother and then turn to ready herself for the next sprint.
Wednesday was the second day of the sports competition and this time they faced an added challenge: a math problem at the other end instead of a chocolate. I didn’t get any good shots of that one as I hadn’t realized this field day only takes place once per term, but I may get some from Robert to share a little later. I got one shoddy picture of competitors standing around to see if their calculation was correct. Oh, and to Robert’s delight, Maddox the dog stood in queue for his biscuit.
One of my first days here I was sitting outside my guest house when three of the hostel boys came over to meet me. I couldn’t say much to them but they hung out anyway. I must have been doing something on my phone, trying to get service maybe while studying Bengali language, because it turned into the boys really wanting to be on camera. They took a few pictures of each other, and once they realized they could do video they wanted to practice Chhau dance and see themselves afterwards. Here’s one of the clips of them playing:
On Sunday they had a Chhau performance together with the older boys. Here’s a piece of it:
They posed all together at the end, after which they helped each other to remove masks. As you can see the performance is demanding!
That’s all for now. This is just the beginning!