“My biggest dream for my children is that their lives will not be the way my life was. I want them to be able to stand on their own two feet and provide for themselves,” Nabah* says.
If you ever want to hear about the lengths a parent would go for their children, come meet Nabah. She has three children – a 12-year-old daughter and two sons aged 15 and 17.
Her eyes become tear-filled as she shares her story… a story of working hard so her kids can have every opportunity she never had.
“I’m not educated myself and I know that nowadays it’s really important to have an education. I want my kids to have the best education so they can have a good future ahead of them,” she says.
For most of the mothers at Sari Bari, their children’s education is a big priority. Yet many, if not all, of these mothers face many challenges in sending their kids to school. Some women cannot afford the school fees (even state schools are not free in India). As working and sometimes single mothers, they struggle to hold their children accountable to their studies, and their children drop out due to lack of accountability and interest. Additionally, financial pressure and worries about their children’s future means they may choose to marry off their daughter at a young age, which often means the end of education for daughters.
The challenges around education don’t just affect the women at Sari Bari… it’s a global issue impacting millions.
According to UNESCO(1), 781 million adults in the world – nearly two thirds of them women – are illiterate. Tragically, 250 million children of primary school age are not reaching minimum learning standards in reading and mathematics. That means they don’t know the basics.
Thankfully, literacy rates in Kolkata are slowly improving. The 2011 census(2) found male literacy has increased from 83.79% (2001) to 88.34% (2011), and female literacy has increased from 77.3% (2001) to 84.06% (2011). While the improvements are encouraging, we believe there is room for improvement.
We aren’t content with Kolkata’s children being part of these statistics – and that’s why we provide financial assistance to women, like Nabah, who want to send their children to school.
Through our School Benefit Program, women deduct a portion of their salaries each month to cover education costs. The women cover 24% of their child’s annual education expenses, and Sari Bari contributes the remaining 76% of the annual expenses. The cost of schooling includes: admission fees, boarding fees, tuition, textbooks, school supplies, uniforms, shoes, schoolbags and umbrellas.
Currently, 61 children are enrolled in school through our program, including Nabah’s youngest two children. They are studying at a boarding school.
Nabah says sometimes she worries because the boarding school can be strict, and if her children don’t do well on their exams, they won’t be able to keep going to the school. “But they just got exam results back and they did really well. I’m very proud of them,” she says.
“One day I told my daughter I had a dream that she would become a dancer and a teacher. And my daughter told me, ‘I’ll make your dreams come true’”.
Nabah’s 15-year-old son wants to do be in the field of business or office work when he gets older.
“He says he’s going to do that type of job so then I won’t have to work because he’ll be able to provide for me,” Nabah says.
Did you know that you can support the School Benefit Program? Just $60 will help send one child to school for a year. The sponsorship covers costs for: admission fees, boarding fees, tuition, textbooks, school supplies, uniforms, shoes, schoolbags and umbrellas.
Written by Nicole Peck
*Name has been changed.
1 UNESCO’s 2000-2015 ‘Education for All’ report: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002322/232205e.pdf