Indian schoolchildren meet at a school supported by the Kiwanis Club of Forest City-London, Ontario.
In some parts of the world, children can’t go to school. Home is a village so remote they’d have to travel many miles just to sit in a classroom. Generations of children, in fact, have never opened a book or done simple arithmetic. This reality exists in remote, tribal villages of India, where illiteracy soars high above the country’s rate of around 27 percent.
Ekal Vidyalaya schools have been addressing just such situations since the late 1980s. These one-teacher schools meet under a tree or in a clearing or modest building, within walking distance of children who have no other opportunities to learn.
Since 2009, the Forest City-London Kiwanis Club of Ontario has supported two Ekal Vidyalaya schools in the Ferozepur District of Punjab, India. Members have received appreciative notes from Ekal graduates, including a police constable and a young woman who helped carry the torch in the 2012 Olympics.
Parshotam Gupta, the president of the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of Canada and a Forest City-London Kiwanian, spearheaded the club’s Ekal school project with the support and encouragement of Les Files, a fellow Kiwanian.
Twenty years ago, children existed in a world of illness and superstition, says Gupta. Now, teachers receive special training to understand an area’s beliefs and customs in hopes they might educate the children with facts. Today, about 95 percent of Ekal students move on to traditional schools at the fifth-grade level.
“Things have changed considerably since the beginning of the Ekal movement,” Gupta says.
“Still, lots needs to be done.”