“Their father abandoned them when they were just babies. I have been taking care of them all alone ever since. On days when I cannot get any work, I go to the jungles to collect Sal leaves and make plates from them. My children should not sleep hungry. That’s all that matters to me.”
Muni Murmu (mother of three children).
As a daily wager, Muni Murmu struggles hard to feed her children. She believes only education can get her family out of poverty. Her children are among the brightest students at Smile Foundation‘s Mission centre – SERVE in Burdwan District, West Bengal.
Muni’s family is part of a remote tribal community residing in the village of Aandharsuli in Burdwan. Cut off from the mainstream world and all its amenities, the tribe here leads a difficult life. Other than farming, weaving and carpentry, making Sal plates is their only source of livelihood.
In this otherwise serene backdrop of tranquility, education of the children takes a backseat. With little access to educational facilities, children here spend their day helping their parents with farm work or doing odd household jobs. Consequences of which eventually lead to another generation making a living by doing work way beneath their potential.
Children of Aandharsuli would earlier traverse through 4-6 km of dense forest to reach the nearest government school. As a result, may would lose their interest in studies and drop out of school within months. But things changed when Mission Education centre – SERVE was set up in the village.
Bringing the first batch of children to the centre proved to be quite a challenge. A dedicated team of community mobilisers and volunteers worked round the clock to identify each and every child of the community. The next step involved sensitising parents about the lifelong impact of education on their children’s lives.
The Mission Education project not only provides education to these children but also addresses their healthcare and nutritional needs, aiming at their holistic development. Special emphasis is laid on outdoor and extra-curricular activities. Not to miss the extra efforts put in by the teachers to make the learning process fun and engaging.
Today, the centre has been successful in minimizing the school drop-out rate to 5% and increase the attendance of students by 80%. Being exposed to education, the community of Aandharsuli, led by its children, has shown a huge transformation. They are much more confident, expressive and above all, geared to lead a better life! The collective effort of the teachers, volunteers, mobilisers and of course the community has indeed paved way for a bright and empowered future of the children.