(You can see her bright smiley face on the photo above in the second row.)
In 2014, I, Estelle had the opportunity to ride on the school bus, picking up the kids from their homes in the villages. It was an adventure as we travelled very narrow bumpy dirt streets, filled with people, cattle, goats, vendors and bicycles, and stopped in different places where the children, lunch basket in hand, excitedly entered the bus. They were coming out of small mud huts with palm leaf roofs or tiny one-room brick homes, but regardless of the poverty, the family dropping them off, were happy too. The children know that going to school is a privilege. They show it by willingly doing homework as if it was fun. Except for their books, a few sets of clothes, a metal plate and cup and their lunch basket, they own nothing. Learning to read and write, count and calculate is opening up a world that would never exist for them otherwise. They seem to know that education is the only way out of the cycle of poverty that they and their families have been living in for generations as far back as they can imagine.
Even in 2014, the bus looked well used, the bumpy roads take its toll, the inside seats are coming apart, repairs are more frequent and the bus is overcrowded. The enrollment of the children is increasing, especially since MM has opened an English immersion branch, which will add 50 children to the program. In addition the bus transports high school students from the home to public school and is thus on the road the whole day. A new bigger bus is needed, so we ask you to help us fund this new bus. It will cost about $33 000.
Just imagine, life for Harsha and many others without a bus
If there was no bus, she would have to work alongside her illiterate mother as a day laborer to supplement the income. Some years they might be able to scratch together some money for the school supplies and attend the village school, but the village school is overcrowded with 40 children of multiple grades in one classroom.
Harsha would certainly miss many days due to money shortage, monsoon rains and sickness as her nutrition is meager. Out of desperation the family would arrange an early marriage, at about age 15. Harsha would have children at a young immature age, suffer the health complications of early pregnancy and childbirth, and have no or minimal education. Her future would be dim with no chance of breaking the cycle of poverty that has accompanied her family for generations.
The province of Andhra Pradesh has a 29% drop out rate of the schools; it also has a very high rate of human trafficking. Young girls are shipped to Mumbai for prostitution at an alarming rate.
India in general has 25 million children who have never gone to school.
Since 1997 Metropolitan Mission has educated about 4 000 children out of which 3000 are girls. The priority for enrollment is girls, as it is true in India that if you educate a girl you educate the whole family.
We are thankful for Harsha and the 4000 other children, who got an education in a loving environment, who were saved from the terrible plight of the shame that goes along with being desperately poor, who were saved from prostitution or from the job of a day laborer, who got a good education.
And it all started with a Canadian, who sponsored the education of little Ebenezer, whose father had died when he was 9 years of age and had left his mother with 6 children. As an adult Dr. Rev. Ebenezer, who is the director of Metropolitan Mission, in turn felt that God called him to provide a loving home and education for the orphans and fatherless.
( see previous blog for video of bus ride)