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A Sydney-based organisation is helping school kids in Bangalore receive an education
Imagine what it would be like not having access to basic education.
One thing that is certain today, is that education shapes the future and it is vital to improving quality of life. A vast majority of migrant Indians who have made Australia their home will know that the fact they had a good education played a key role in being able to enter, work and reside in this country.
“A quality education is central to helping people to move out of the poverty cycle and onto better life pathways,” says Miles Young, General Manager of International Christian Aid Relief Enterprises Limited (iCARE) Australia.
Established in 1982, iCARE is a Parramatta-based, charitable, non-government organisation. Its vision is for women, children and youth in developing countries like India, Philippines, Uganda and Kenya to become empowered through education, to break the cycle of poverty and improve their lives and those of their families.
For over three decades, iCARE has initiated numerous educational activities in developing countries driven by the support and generosity of Australians. Over 15,000 women and young people have benefitted from receiving aid. By 2019, the organisation hopes to have reached more than 25,000 people.
The organisation adopts a ‘community-centred’ approach in executing educational projects. It supports schools and other educational institutions which are nested at the heart of the communities in which they are located. It promotes gender and disability inclusiveness ensuring that women, girls and people with a disability are given the opportunity to receive an education (as is their right).
“Partnering with reputable local NGOs ensures the projects which we fund address areas of real need and deliver significant and lasting benefits,” Young says.
In 2015, iCARE invested just under $200,000 in community-focused education projects. These funds benefitted over 2,700 women, children and youth across 12 educational institutions in 12 communities in India, Kenya, the Philippines, Thailand and Uganda.
The Ashraya Neelbagh School Project, undertaken in India, is a fine example of similar organisations working together to create workable solutions. iCARE joined forces with Ashraya, a Bangalore-based not-for-profit organisation, to help underprivileged and destitute children, irrespective of caste, creed or status, by improving their quality of education.
“The focus of iCARE is to ensure the projects we support take a holistic approach to education,” Young says. “We don’t just help build classrooms and provide school equipment, we also fund activities which improve the health and wellbeing of the students as well as enhance the knowledge and skills of teachers. We also look at how our projects can help the communities which are linked to the schools – helping to improve the lives of mums and dads in the communities will have positive flow-on effects on the schools and the students.”
Neelbagh is located near Madanpally, in the state of Karnataka, about 100 kilometres from Bangalore. Established in 1996 by Ashraya, the local school caters to children of disadvantaged migrant labour communities, offering classes from Lower Kindergarten to Year 10, and follows the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) syllabus. A large component of its curriculum centres on practical vocational training.
Over the past decade, iCARE’s partnership with Ashraya has benefitted more than 3,000 children, especially girls. Through providing material support such as school supplies and food for 50 children, as well as two teachers’ salaries, the organisation has worked at strengthening the knowledge and skills of teachers and helping vulnerable rural children gain access to education.
Enrolments in Neelbagh School, as well as the proportion of girls enrolling, have consistently increased over the period of iCARE’s support since 2004. For seven consecutive years (between 2009 and 2015), the school achieved 100% pass rate in the Class 10 SSLC examination compared with the average pass rate of 82% for the state. This year, the school’s teachers were trained on the state’s new curricula for language, science, mathematics and on more effective teaching strategies and techniques.
According to partner organisation Ashraya, once children are educated up to Year 10, many families encourage their children to continue with higher education. A trend has been observed that when one child is educated, the parents make sure that other, younger children also have the advantage of a good education. Similarly, neighbours and people from surrounding areas seethe impact that education has on a child’s future and encourage their own children to study. Every year, friends and relatives of children attending Neelbagh apply for admission to the school.
“I get great satisfaction from my work – more so than when I worked as a lawyer in private legal practice,” Young says. “And our supporters also constantly tell us how amazing it feels to be able to give to children what many of us in Australia take for granted – the gift of a quality education. And you know what, wouldn’t it be fantastic if more Australian-Indians and Indian nationals living in Australia supported iCARE to help poor communities in India?”
A donation of $50 a month, comes to $600 a year. This may not seem much by Australian standards, but its value is seven or eight times that, maybe more, in India and in other countries where iCARE offers assistance. The satisfaction for donors in giving far exceeds the cost to them. As for the school children themselves, the appreciation to their donors is just priceless. After all, can you possibly put a price on helping to change lives for the better?