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Learning from our mistakes: what's next?

Renee Schreurs

23902133238_494b2dabff_z_Grid7.jpg

Any parent or carer can testify how difficult it is to get your child ready for school on time in the morning.

“Shoes on!.... Hair brushed!...School bag!....HOMEWORK!”

The scene, I’m sure, is familiar. If not as a parent, then definitely as a child. The school run is a hectic time for everyone but even more so when you’re trying to organise nearly 80 children getting to school each day.

My Name is Kumar state that one of the principal things we do is support the education of children who would otherwise be on the street begging. We give access to school places, provide school equipment and transport where it’s needed. Most people (us included!) would look at this list and nod “yes, this is pretty comprehensive. We’re all set!”

However, we soon learnt that you can hand a child all these things but it won’t necessarily mean they attend school every day. We took for granted that parents would know how to get their child ready for school in the morning. We thought they would know that their 7 year old boy needs to pack his homework to take with him. We assumed a lot.

Put simply, parents didn’t know how to do these things and consequently at the very beginning of the school year children were constantly late, didn’t wear the right school uniform on the right day, and missed homework deadlines. Their teachers weren’t impressed.

We realised that we hadn’t thought of everything. So at the beginning of the 2016 school year we decided to hire ‘care mothers’ who would work within our communities to help parents get their children ready each day. They would have the responsibility of ensuring all kids had breakfast, carried their homework with them and wore the correct school uniform. The care motherwould also be teaching the parents how to do this job so that eventually parents would be able to take care of these tasks themselves.

We were really excited about this idea and secured some funding to help us do this. However, after a long search to hire the right people to do this job we sadly came to realise that our idea might not be so simple to implement. Our villages are rural and remote, in some cases there simply wasn’t a qualified person in the local vicinity to take up the position. In other cases we met people who simply refused to work with our communities. Locally, our communities are highly stigmatised and socially excluded; local people think the families we work with are dirty and not to be trusted, so finding someone who is willing to enter the Londor community and help them get their children ready for school was really hard for us. On the other hand, getting families in Londor to trust an outsider to do this job is very hard. We’ve worked hard for 5 years to be welcomed into homes and entrusted to get kids to school - how easy would it be for a willing but new person to win the same trust?

We decided to change our method again. And this time we decided to adopt a slightly different approach for each of the 4 villages we work with. We had to take a few different things into consideration: location, prior experiences, and resources we had at our fingertips.

For one village this meant working with young adults from within the Londor community to teach younger children how to get ready for school on time. These young adults have already attended school themselves and have an existing rapour with the children and families. The little children see them as big brothers and sisters, which means they show respect and listen to what they’re told.

For another village it meant enabling children to come to one of our tuition centres in the morning as well as the evening, and getting them to wash and prepare school equipment the evening before. This way a social worker can check each child from the village has the uniform and equipment they need as well as receiving breakfast and lunch if they haven’t already had it at home.

For one community in particular, the one that was struggling the most, we decided to trial something completely new. Right now we are establishing a Community Development Centre which can be used by children and their families as a safe place to use for their own development. The centre will be a separate building but close to children’s homes so that they can walk there each morning before school to wash, dress and have breakfast. In the evenings children will be able to study with electricity, a dedicated tutor and social workers.

We’re hoping that our new methods will help develop positive habits and behaviours across the whole community. We also hope that the Londor families can recognise that we’ve failed before but we’re willing to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try again in another (improved) way in order to better serve them.

If our plan for a Community Development Centre goes well we hope to replicate similar centres in other locations, with some modifications to reflect the needs of that particular community.

This is exactly what we tell the kids we work with too. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get top marks first time, what matters is that you do your best, pay attention, and adapt when things don’t go to plan. As adults we sometimes have to take our own advice ;)Any parent or carer can testify how difficult it is to get your child ready for school on time in the morning.

“Shoes on!.... Hair brushed!...School bag!....HOMEWORK!”

The scene, I’m sure, is familiar. If not as a parent, then definitely as a child. The school run is a hectic time for everyone but even more so when you’re trying to organise nearly 80 children getting to school each day.

My Name is Kumar state that one of the principal things we do is support the education of children who would otherwise be on the street begging. We give access to school places, provide school equipment and transport where it’s needed. Most people (us included!) would look at this list and nod “yes, this is pretty comprehensive. We’re all set!”

However, we soon learnt that you can hand a child all these things but it won’t necessarily mean they attend school every day. We took for granted that parents would know how to get their child ready for school in the morning. We thought they would know that their 7 year old boy needs to pack his homework to take with him. We assumed a lot.

Put simply, parents didn’t know how to do these things and consequently at the very beginning of the school year children were constantly late, didn’t wear the right school uniform on the right day, and missed homework deadlines. Their teachers weren’t impressed.

We realised that we hadn’t thought of everything. So at the beginning of the 2016 school year we decided to hire ‘care mothers’ who would work within our communities to help parents get their children ready each day. They would have the responsibility of ensuring all kids had breakfast, carried their homework with them and wore the correct school uniform. The care motherwould also be teaching the parents how to do this job so that eventually parents would be able to take care of these tasks themselves.

We were really excited about this idea and secured some funding to help us do this. However, after a long search to hire the right people to do this job we sadly came to realise that our idea might not be so simple to implement. Our villages are rural and remote, in some cases there simply wasn’t a qualified person in the local vicinity to take up the position. In other cases we met people who simply refused to work with our communities. Locally, our communities are highly stigmatised and socially excluded; local people think the families we work with are dirty and not to be trusted, so finding someone who is willing to enter the Londor community and help them get their children ready for school was really hard for us. On the other hand, getting families in Londor to trust an outsider to do this job is very hard. We’ve worked hard for 5 years to be welcomed into homes and entrusted to get kids to school - how easy would it be for a willing but new person to win the same trust?

We decided to change our method again. And this time we decided to adopt a slightly different approach for each of the 4 villages we work with. We had to take a few different things into consideration: location, prior experiences, and resources we had at our fingertips.

For one village this meant working with young adults from within the Londor community to teach younger children how to get ready for school on time. These young adults have already attended school themselves and have an existing rapour with the children and families. The little children see them as big brothers and sisters, which means they show respect and listen to what they’re told.

For another village it meant enabling children to come to one of our tuition centres in the morning as well as the evening, and getting them to wash and prepare school equipment the evening before. This way a social worker can check each child from the village has the uniform and equipment they need as well as receiving breakfast and lunch if they haven’t already had it at home.

For one community in particular, the one that was struggling the most, we decided to trial something completely new. Right now we are establishing a Community Development Centre which can be used by children and their families as a safe place to use for their own development. The centre will be a separate building but close to children’s homes so that they can walk there each morning before school to wash, dress and have breakfast. In the evenings children will be able to study with electricity, a dedicated tutor and social workers.

We’re hoping that our new methods will help develop positive habits and behaviours across the whole community. We also hope that the Londor families can recognise that we’ve failed before but we’re willing to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try again in another (improved) way in order to better serve them.

If our plan for a Community Development Centre goes well we hope to replicate similar centres in other locations, with some modifications to reflect the needs of that particular community.

This is exactly what we tell the kids we work with too. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get top marks first time, what matters is that you do your best, pay attention, and adapt when things don’t go to plan. As adults we sometimes have to take our own advice ;)

Karunya picking the girls up after school.

Karunya picking the girls up after school.