Debriefing of the remote meeting with Deodas, India, 24.11.2020
The pandemic situation in India has so far not allowed schools to reopen, which could, at best, take place at the beginning of January 2021; the school year would then be extended until August 2021. This closure concerns primary and secondary schools. As a result, none of the activities that we support are running, neither the support centres nor the science programme, and none of the planned development and purchasing projects have been able to be undertaken to date. Deodas will write in December to the various secondary schools interested in the science programme.
Lockdown constraints prevent Deodas from circulating near the support centres, so he has very little contact with the families. The families, most of whom are deprived of small daily jobs, receive state aid in the form of food (rice) and money.
Regarding the transfer of our financial help: Deodas has not yet obtained the authorisation from the Indian government to open an account with the Central Bank of India. He is hoping that this should be done in December 2020. Nevertheless, he needs money to pay himself a salary and to pay the teachers for the months of October, November and December 2020 and perhaps also to recruit an assistant. He will send us a summary of his needs.
For the future, the spending outlooks concern the purchase of a vehicle around March 2021 that would be driven by a driver (to be paid?) or by the assistant that he will recruit in January 2021.
Since the last invoices he sent us in the spring of 2020, there have been other expenses for which Deodas will send us the receipts.
Regarding the purchase of computers for the support centres, he thinks it is a good idea in order to reinforce the learning of English; however, he is a little cautious about the teachers' ability to use them, so he will follow up.
2020 Gandhi Education General Meeting - September 24th, 2020, Paris
The events of the year 2020, which you know well, forced us to postpone the date of our General Meeting, originally scheduled for March on the same day as the play performed for us by the French theatre company Les 7 de la Cité, which also had to be cancelled.
2019, a special context
The year 2019 had started with many difficulties on the Indian side of our organisation in terms of receiving our donations. Indeed, the Karnataka government refused to allow our Indian partner Deodas Shetty to receive foreign money. This was not the first time this had happened, but this time the sequence was longer. I contacted several French organisations working in India, whom we met to find out if they had the same difficulties, trying to untangle whether it was a bad local relationship, an overzealous local government official, or a position taken by a federal government much more nationalist than its predecessors. The answers were mixed, but it appears that India now wants to create groupings of organisations, and thus that ours seems modest to them.
In the end, like the last time the problem arose, Deodas contacted DEEDS, an organisation close to us which we met during one of our trips, and arranged for them to receive our funds and transfer them to Gandhi Seva Ashram in return for a commission.
The delay in receiving the allotted budget prevented Deodas from launching the work that had been planned, namely setting up support centres and purchasing scientific equipment and a vehicle to transport it.
The year 2019 was therefore a year of continuity. Our financial resources (donations, subsidies and various income streams) enabled us to continue to operate the 8 support centres and the scientific demonstrations in the schools of the Udupi district and to pay the teachers' salaries.
Now, in 2020, we will have to wait for the health situation to change in India in order for the planned actions to start, as the schools did not reopen after the end of the school holidays at the end of June; and the centres we support have remained closed. Classes are scheduled to resume on October 1st. The few pieces of information that filter through on the extent of the epidemic in India are not reassuring and Deodas told us in a recent email that the virus was beginning to affect rural areas.
Our joint efforts
In 2019, we managed to raise substantial funds with your loyal donations (68 donors), a share of the proceeds from the play performed by the theatre company Les 7 de la cité one evening for the benefit of our association, the sale of objects made by Agnès Gorgeu, notably at stalls at the Caisse des Dépôts before the holidays, and two subsidies from Children and Future and CDC Solidaires.
We were therefore well placed to invest in the development of our projects: setting up of the support centres and the scientific programme. This work has now been delayed but will be able to start as soon as the schools reopen.
The grants that we have obtained, notably from CDC Solidaire, are for investments for which we will need to go on site to see the work that has been done and to collect the evidence for our financers. Again, we will have to wait for the situation to change before planning this trip, which will probably be possible in 2021!
During this hectic time, we have been thinking and we are putting forward some ideas that we would like to discuss with you.
We would like to be able to obtain some information from our Indian partner on the trajectory of the children we have been helping for the last twenty years, and in particular to have some ideas about what they have become: how many of them have gone on to higher education? How many have gone on to university? Where are they settled? Are they working in the region? Elsewhere?
We have already discussed this with Deodas.
In the same way, we are wondering about the purpose of these support centres, asking ourselves if the actions could be extended to activities to develop their autonomy, beyond support with schoolwork, which is currently well covered. Would it be conceivable to equip them with computer equipment, for instance? This would suppose that the centres are connected to the internet. We have not yet discussed this with Deodas. We will wait for the pandemic situation to evolve, but we can discuss it together in order to build the next steps.
Another project planned for autumn 2020 is the agreement with ISIT, the school which created our website, to translate the site into English in order to facilitate relations with India.
A heartfelt thank you to all of you for your unwavering commitment.
Christine Brémond, President
November 2019 news
The implementation of the projects contained in the 3-year programme, as presented below in the June 2019 news, has begun.
Two new centres have been created, bringing the total number of centres to 9, benefiting 120 children, with a team of ten teachers and a social worker.
Coordination between teachers is ensured. All centres are regularly visited, on a weekly or 10-day basis. Observations on some children’s absence or difficulties are discussed with teachers.
Meetings with teachers are held monthly to pay salaries and discuss issues and progress in each centre.
Regarding the fitting-out of the premises, two centres run by a Gram Panchayat (a local government operating at the level of a group of villages) are in need of improvement. Repairs are carried out by this Gram Panchayat thanks to funding from our partners. Another centre, belonging to a group of young people, needs major renovations which will start soon.
Regarding the teaching of English, which is essential to reach higher levels of education, in addition to the work carried out by one of the teachers dedicated to this subject, our partner Deodas Shetty is experimenting with new learning methods requiring the purchase of computers.
Lastly, the centres will be equipped with storage cabinets for books, sports equipment and other school supplies.
Forty schools are concerned, with a total of 1200 students. Around sixty scientific experiments are currently being conducted, including a new experiment game in physics class.
These modes of scientific education are in strong demand. They will probably be extended to locations other than Udupi and the nearby villages. A request has been made by an education officer from the Taluk (sub-district) of Kundapur. This would involve around 20 high schools and middle schools currently volunteering to take part in these scientific experiments.
A new unit is therefore being set up in this Taluk, with the purchase of equipment and chemicals.
The training of teachers and the recruitment of science teachers to provide this type of teaching requires considerable operating resources and organisation, and, above all, comes up against the difficulty of bringing recruits to places far from the major urban centres.
The purchase of a car to transport scientific equipment is planned for 2020.
We have just received news from our partner in India, Deodas Shetty, who is sending us the programme for the next 3 years.
This programme should be soon presented to the Karnataka government. It concerns both sides of our support:
Two new centres will be open for the start of the new school year in June, with the recruitment of 2 additional teachers.
A programme to improve the premises, notably in terms of electrification, but also in terms of water supply, sanitation and ventilation, and the purchase of school furniture and materials, is planned. In the note that comes with the budget forecasts, Deodas emphasises the learning of English, which is indispensable in India to access higher education and employment.
Promoting the development of science (physics, chemistry)
We have supported the launching of this initiative thanks to initial financial aid from the Children and Future organisation in 2017. The plan is ambitious, initially set to benefit 25 schools, and then 50 in the long term. To achieve this, we need to acquire more demonstration equipment and scientific supplies, as well as organise their transport, thanks to the purchase of a vehicle, and to recruit teachers/facilitators to run the sessions in the schools. This strong increase in activity has been made possible by stronger support from our partners.
Indeed, at the beginning of the year, we obtained a new grant of 5,000 euros (447,117 rupees) from Children and Future, and we have just obtained a grant of 8,000 euros (715,388 rupees) from CDC Développement Solidaire. This aid will enable us to support the growth of the two parts of the programme that we have just mentioned.
Children and Future's aid is focused on the purchase of school furniture and equipment, as well as scientific equipment.
CDC Développement Solidaire's aid will go towards fitting out the premises of the tutoring centres, additional purchases of scientific equipment and the purchase of a vehicle.
With the support of our donors, Gandhi Education will keep financing the running of the tutoring centres and the recruitment of teachers/facilitators for science promotion in schools, thanks to donations which have been generous this year, particularly during the Theatre evening in April with the theatre company Les 7 de la cité. We will follow the development of this programme, which starts this June with the start of the school year, and give you an update in the autumn.