Saturday, 26 November 2011

“Our girls should know how to read a newspaper”

Update The Wisdom Academy - November 2011

Building awareness on education and health, and encouraging parents to send their children to school is an ongoing job for The Wisdom Academy. 


The majority of the parents are illiterate and unskilled, and do not know about the potential of schooling. As an elderly slum dweller said: “When our children reach the age of 10 we send them to the city to work as servants for rich families, so why should they go to school?”

Talking to parents on a constant basis and giving them reasons to send their children to school works. Many kids now come to the schools on their own. They don’t need to be picked up from their homes anymore by a helper of The Wisdom Academy.

Recently, some mothers told a teacher that their daughters should know how to read a newspaper. In communities where families are far less likely to educate girls than boys, such a statement indicates a positive change in awareness of the importance of education!

The monthly door-to-door health visits by the nurse and a female teacher are more and more about prevention and raising awareness, besides offering basic medical care. It took some time to gain trust from the (female) slum dwellers. Now, the ladies tell their stories, share information on families in need, and are willing to be educated about health, personal hygiene and cleanliness.

The nurse tells the women, for instance:
  • To limit the amount of hot spices (garam masala) in the food to reduce stomach problems and diarrhoea.
  • About the harms of tobacco consumption. Many women have the habit of chewing tobacco, as a ‘medicine’ for weakness, anaemia and headache. The nurse gives them iron tablets and vitamin pills.
  • That (if possible) they and their family members should have breakfast in the morning before leaving for work and school, to feel fitter, perform better and avoid health problems.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Update The Wisdom Academy - October 2011

Happy Diwali!  
India is the land of festivals. Throughout the year there are numerous celebrations. In addition to national festivals, all states and regions have their own local festivities, many of them lasting for several days. Indian children have many holidays from school!

Two big festivals in October are Dussehra and Diwali. Dussehra is devoted to celebrating the defeat of the demon king Ravana by Lord Rama, it signifies the victory of good over evil. In Rajasthan, people are burning effigies of Ravana on Dussehra, symbolizing the burning of evil. Diwali is the Festival of Lights. It’s one of the most important festivals for Hindus. It represents the start of the Hindu New Year and is celebrated as the victory of light over darkness. Lots of small clay lamps (diyas) are lit and placed in and around houses, and fireworks are let off everywhere. People give each other gifts and (lots of) sweets during the festival.

The Wisdom Academy schools were closed for one week for the Dussehra/Diwali holidays.

Lakshmi Pooja during Diwali.
A sacred ritual during which Lakshmi is being worshipped, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual. 

Drop outs
Unfortunately, in the past months, some children were taken out of school by their parents. A 10-year-old boy was sent to Delhi by his family to work as a domestic worker (‘servant’) in a middle class household. Two girls (9 and 10 years old) returned to the rural villages in West Bengal from which their families have migrated to Jaipur. They now have to take care of their grandparents and work in the fields.
The Wisdom Academy tries to convince the parents to get their children back to Jaipur, and allow them to go to school for a few more years.

Access to education for working children    
Many children in the slums are forced to work to support their family, and do not have the opportunity to attend regular schooling. That’s why The Wisdom Academy is also running afternoon school programs inside some slums, where huts are being used as class rooms. Classes are being given in the late afternoon and shortened to about two and half hours, so the children can work during the day.

Naturally, both The Wisdom Academy and Narangi are against child labour. But the reality is that in many poor families children earn an important portion of a family’s income. By employing the ‘earn and learn approach’ these boys and girls can continue working and have access to education.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Update The Wisdom Academy - August 2011

It’s the rainy season in Jaipur, temperatures have dropped into the lower 30s (Celsius), so school timings are back to normal.

The schools were closed for two weeks for a summer break. In Jaipur, students attending public or private schools have two months summer holidays (May and June, the hottest months of the year). But such a long interval wouldn’t be effective for the pupils of The Wisdom Academy. These children still have to develop a habit of learning, without having much encouragement and support from their parents. A long vacation would mean that students’ school discipline would have to be re-established, and that students would have forgotten much of what they had learned before the holidays.

The Wisdom Academy has rented a third room on the premises of the Nirman Nagar school, to be used for classes and as audio-visual space.

School in Nirman Nagar

The school in Nirman Nagar is serving two slums: a slum very near to the school (a few minutes on foot),  and another one some kilometers further on. Students from the second slum are being transported to and from the school by auto rickshaws. As the attendance of children from this second slum fluctuates greatly, The Wisdom Academy will soon start giving classes inside the slum. Hopefully, providing education closer by home will increase the number of students going to school daily.    

Besides the above activities, The Wisdom Academy is running educational programs in two more slums (in residential huts). Here, the children are present regularly. For the time being, family huts will continue to be used as class rooms.

Some girls were struggling to combine classes and responsibilities at home. The Wisdom Academy managed to convince their parents to let their daughters go to school, and have them do the work at home afterwards.

Math lesson

The children who started attending classes a few months ago are beginning to learn the basics of the ‘serious’ school subjects. As almost all students never went to school before, it’s a daily challenge to have them settled into the routine and structure of the class. Coming to school on a regular basis, sitting still, listening, learning good manners, and taking interest in studies; it all takes a lot of time before the actual studying can start.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Update The Wisdom Academy - May 2011

Medical check-ups
A qualified nurse visits the slums for medical check-ups and to create awareness among the slum dwellers about (prevention of) diseases. Basic medicines are distributed, without any cost. In coming time two slums will be served, each slum being visited every two months.    

The visits take place late in the afternoon or in the early evening, when the slum residents are home from work and the men didn’t start drinking yet. The nurse goes door-to-door, accompanied by a representative of The Wisdom Academy and a ‘helper’.

The most common medical problems and diseases are: coughs, loose motion problems (diarrhea), children suffering from malnutrition, rash, malaria, and headaches.

Besides offering people basic medical care, the check-ups also facilitate building trust and confidence between the slum dwellers and The Wisdom Academy. This helps in motivating parents to send their children to school.  

What else happened the last two months? 
  • Because of the heat (over 40 degrees Celsius) school timings have changed for the coming time. Now classes are being held in the early morning.
  • The Wisdom Academy has distributed tooth brushes to the children. Many people brush their teeth with their (dirty) fingers and tooth powder.
  • Some parents (especially mothers) have started dropping their children off at school. This is a good sign because it means that these parents are getting involved with their children’s education.
  • The Wisdom Academy organized a picnic for all students from Nirman Nagar slum, in a park and playground nearby.
  • Some children have head lice. They are given treatment at the school. 

Clean drinking water at the school

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Update The Wisdom Academy - March 2011

Nirman Nagar school
Now also 14 children from another slum nearby are attending the school (6 girls and 8 boys, aged 6 to 11), making the total number of students 39. Free transportation by auto rickshaws to and from the school is provided for the new students. Before, these children were begging or just hanging around.

Many children in the Nirman Nagar slum are suffering from tooth infections and cavities. In coming time a dental camp will be organised.

Two more slums
Educational activities have started in two more slums. In total 45 children (24 girls and 21 boys) signed up for classes. The new students are aged 5 to 12. Most of these children never have been to school before.

Initially, classes are held every other day in the afternoon from 4 pm to about 7 pm. One teacher serves both slums (he works 3 days in one slum, and 3 days in the other slum). The teacher is being assisted by a helper. The helper collects the children for school and assists in class.

Attendance is not regular (yet), the number of children coming to school varies every day. The Wisdom Academy is running awareness programs in the slums to encourage the parents to send their children to school on a regular basis.

The first couple of months classes take place in residential huts in the slums. Around mid July The Wisdom Academy will evaluate the new 'schools' and decide how to move on. If possible, schools will be set up inside the slums. Renting more class rooms on the premises of the Nirman Nagar school would also be a possibility. In that case, The Wisdom Academy would provide daily transport to and from the school by auto rickshaws.   

In these two slums some people are living in pathetic conditions, which is even a bigger problem if they are sick. In those cases, The Wisdom Academy hands out flour and other eatables. 

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Republic Day in India
A perfect day for a picnic with some of the elder students of The Wisdom Academy! Playing fun games (such as the lemon-spoon race), football, badminton and of course cricket.   

Playing football, or rugby?  :-)

Lemon-Spoon Race


Saturday, 15 January 2011


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