We're delighted to share an update on Laxmi, who you may have read about in previous years as 'Nisha'. Laxmi attends one of the Learning Centres we support in Bihar State, India and we first spoke to her when she was 10 years old. She's 13 now, and dreams of opening her own dance school. Read on to find out more....
So we thought we’d ‘re-introduce’ her, and let you know how she’s been getting on…..
Laxmi is now 13 years old, and over this time she has excelled in the learning centres and her favourite thing is to dance! Her dream is to open her own dance school when she grows up.
Her school used to be on the rooftop of the local slum area, but the school is now based in new covered building. Laxmi has also enjoyed vocational beauty lessons and can’t wait until she turns 14 so she can join the NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) programme. This programme enables older Dalit students who can’t access formal secondary schools to cover the secondary school syllabus with support from expert NIOS teachers.
There are three dedicated NIOS Centres which take applications from children like Laxmi. If successful, they are supported to take formal Grade 8 (end of primary), Grade 10 (lower secondary) and Grade 12 (upper secondary) exams and certification, after which they could go on to College or University.
Laxmi is currently studying hard so she can take the entrance exams as soon as she turns 14.
Laxmi comes from an especially marginalised Musahar community in Patna. She stopped going to state school when she was younger because she suffered abuse from the teachers there. Dalit children often face discrimination and abuse from teachers and other children at government schools, forcing many to drop out.
When she was 10 years old, she told us: “My teacher would ask me to read in front of the class. As I was not able to read properly, he used to beat me, so I stopped going to school. Actually, I was punished every day. It was getting tougher for me to continue. Later I started coming to the Learning Centre and have now been attending for the last one and half years”.
She has been attending one of our learning centres ever since.
We support 31 community Learning Centres for over 970 childen in Patna, Bihar and the surrounding rural areas to tackle the barriers to education faced by Dalit children like Laxmi.
Our Learning Centres are colourful classrooms with nurturing teachers, where nearly 1000 children have lessons in maths, science and language. A separate Computer Centre in Patna offers IT lessons and access to computers for the children, helping to break the digital divide.
The curriculum in our Learning Centres includes a focus on self esteem, human rights (under Indian and international law), caste discrimination and local justice systems. The children are encouraged to grow in self worth and are given the tools to change their futures.
Our partners also work with local government schools to encourage integration of the children we support, back into the mainstream school system. They actively support children once they graduate from the Learning Centres, building relationships with local schools to help with the transition and allowing students to return to the centres after school for extra guidance and encouragement.