When I arrive it is break time at the school and the children are mostly running around and playing as you would see in most schools around the world. However it seems that there are many less students here today than before the break.
It seems that this period between Holi and the start of the summer holidays in late May is traditionally a time of poor attendance amongst the poorer families such as those that use this school. First it is wedding season, traditionally the only auspicious time for scheduling Hindu weddings. Many families either return to their villages or are engaged in employment centered around the marriage ceremonies. It is also the season for the farmers to harvest their grains – specifically wheat, so farm children are also away supporting their families. This is more evidence of the struggle between income and education that many of the students face on a daily basis.
So the 210 children present at the school today each receive a vitamin packed orange from Sai Maa Vishnu Shakti Trust. First we make sure that the 2 tiny children leaving early with tears rolling down their cheeks do not go home empty handed. It has been their first day at school and by 10.00am it has become a bit daunting (school starts at 7.30am), so as we arrive they are being taken home by some older students.
Receiving the treat of an orange on their way out must have seemed like just one more confusing experience on this strange day. They look at me directly in the eyes, totally unsure of whether to accept the orange, but continually glancing at the temptation being proffered anyway and then back at me. With gentle encouragement they eventually reach out and accept the offering, before looking back at us with wondering eyes all the way to school gate.