The Head teacher Mr Jha, started living on site on 1 Nov. 07, and UKG and Grade 1 classes started on Monday 3 Dec 07. He is seen here with our patron, Honourable Raja Sabha M P Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar (2010).
We started with just Kindergarten (age 5) and Grade 1 Primary (age 6) so that we may build in good standards and practices from the start, by starting small.
MONIES FROM ESTHER BENJAMINS TRUST
We are blessed, and eternally grateful to Philip Holmes’ Eshter Benjamins Trust in London, that they permit us to use them as a fund-collection centre in UK and add gift aid when relevant to our cache with them. This is a boon beyond description in value to BET. Added to that my old Dartmouth term-mate Julian Lee for three years selflessly gave his time and energies in acting as our man at the EBT, specifically in responding to donors with thank-you letters. This really helped our ship to take to sea.
And in August 2010 when Julian’s wife Margaret was hospitalized, Clive Elderton, the recently retired Defence Attache in Delhi volunteered to take on this task. Again we are blessed.
Our first tranche of money from UK (GBP 14,000) came through in Feb 08 from the Esther Benjamin Trust which acts as ’our friend in UK,’ bundling donations into a pool and adding the Gift Aid supplement. Our application to the FCRA authorities in India to import foreign currency was cleared after six month’s scrutiny. That money, nominated to cover both running costs (GBP 8,000) - teachers pay and materials – and building costs (GBP 6,000) enabled us to finish the second teachers’ hostel - the pink house.
During that six month FCRA waiting period my own pocket was tested severely and regularly, to keep the program on track.
Then in Dec 2008 we applied for GBP 8,000 to come in, and in Feb 2009 we applied for GBP 10,000 to come in and in Dec 2009 we applied for GBP 25,000 to come in; and only after strenuous lobbying did we get approval in late Feb 2010 for those monies to come in.
This was a testing time and my abilities as a beggar were honed to a fine edge. On a number of occasions we were close to failing to pay the teachers, but always managed to scrape through. Indian friends came to my rescue on a number of occasions and now are regular supporters.
Now with monies in hand building is underway again and life is rosier, though in Feb 2011 we were again waiting for FCRA approval of our application for permanent clearance, having done three years as required, without failings.
With a permanent clearance now in hand, life is very much easier and we bring in money when a decent sum has accumulated.
Teacher Nisha Yadav started Montessori training on 8th April and completed in October 08, since when she set up our Montessori facility in the three interconnected nursery class-rooms
In Dec 09 the Rotary Matching Grant (USD 16,000) funded specialist equipment from KIDO Enterprises in Bangalore was approved, and arrived in Jan 2010. Shelves have gone up and the kit is in use, but will only achieve full steam when we have more trained teachers.
Lajwanti completed the Montessori training course in Oct 2010 course and Tara is now on course, to be followed by Anshu, in April ’11. This will give us the four we need get the Montessori engine room really working with the objective of giving the 3-5s a good command of the English language and the basis of a broad free-thinking character, so that primary education can really do its stuff. The GAP volunteers are deployed in the nursery for reading stories, story-telling and generally speaking English, giving greater coverage in our classes of 40 than would otherwise be the case.
If the battle away from blackboard and learning by rote, towards thinking and doing is to be won, it will be here in the Montessori class-rooms and by the energies of our splendid teachers.
Acting on recommendation from our Trustee Lalage Prabhu and others we are in the process of introducing a new Primary School system called "iDiscoveri".
It encompasses a wide range of course work books which themselves set the curriculum, and again it encourages work away from the blackboard. Teachers have course work-books which give advice on how to promote each subject in an interesting way. Results by those already following this system appear to be very good, with learning rates increased.
Four teachers have done their training and it has lifted off. We are feeling our way forward, and have regular visits from the iDiscoveri support staff to help us. We shall know in a couple of years if this was a good step.
2008 was an historic year for us, culminating with Sir John Major, having seen the school en passant, deciding to fund our next five classrooms, one per annum five years. We salute you, Sir John - your first two are now up (Sept 2010).
2009 started magnificently, with the village and district authorities formalizing the grant of extra land to make the cricket pitch a better shape, and then funded a re-work on the village tank using a JCB and two tractors with tipper trailors, which in three weeks completed moving soil from the tank into our "low corner" and completed building the new wall in April 09, finishing in one month what we had imagined would take us three years, using the village donkey man with their saddlebags.
Three and 4 year-olds were inducted in April 09, which was the last induction of more than one class at a time.
At Easter 2010 we grew by just one class when we added three year olds only, and so it will be from now on, until we reach Grade ten at age sixteen in seven years time .
By then we shall need to start vocational training which will need more classrooms.