This is a message from Liam Ashe, a former teacher who lives in Ballyea in Co. Clare.
I am a co-director of our school in Howrah, Kolkata, India since 2006. We have 320 children in our school, (increasing to 350 in April 2022), with a slight majority of girls. These are the poorest of the poor. Their parents work as day labourers at the most menial tasks such as rickshaw pulling, carrying goods from the railway station to the shops and labouring in dangerous conditions on building sites. Some mothers work in domestic service.
We have 14 teachers and three kitchen staff. We have an English-medium school because proficiency in English gives our students a far greater chance of getting employment in shops, banks, factories and restaurants. We follow the Delhi Board curriculum. Inspections by inspectors of the Board of Education give us excellent reports. In addition, we provide a nutritious lunch, cooked in our school for our children and staff each school day.
Since Covid began, we have been hard-pressed to maintain our services. We have managed to keep the school open almost continuously with morning and afternoons shifts and split classes which allows social distancing. However, the big drain on our finances since 2020 has been the provision of direct food aid to the families of our children because the lockdowns prevented family breadwinners from working. Without our food aid, our families would have gone hungry and worse.
Our work continues. Our pupils depend on us and on our teachers to meet their educational needs into the future. Education is transformative. From illiterate homes, our pupils will enter apprecenticeships, will train as nurses, work in banks or go to College, a step beyond the wildest dreams of their parents.
Our NGO in Ireland is called Balo Children Ireland. We depend entirely on voluntary contributions. Every cent of your donations will go to our school. We have no office, paid employees or other overheads in Ireland. I have travelled to Kolkata at my own expense since 2005 each year until the spring of 2020. We are fully registered with the Charity Register Authority to whom we return our annual reports. They can be seen on the web.
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