Most of the children at this school come from extremely poor families, and contributing to family income is considered essential. This means the first three grades are very large classes as families willingly send their children for education at this age. Some of these children in Lower Kindergarten are as young as 3 years old. However at age 6 or 7 there is a significant drop-out rate each year as children begin to fulfill the expectation to contribute to the family income. However now enrollments are underway and the staff expect the full complement of students to be reached by the beginning of August.
The older students now squabble amicably amongst themselves as they race to serve the younger students, but they have to complete many rounds of each classroom before the students’ stomachs are full. Today they are serving chickpea and vegetable stew, with freshly made puri and a milk and rice pudding (Khir) for their treat. Once they finish serving the young children, these older students organize themselves to serve each other and take care that everyone receives their meal. The teachers oversee the program offering direction, love and discipline in equal measures. The result is a loving supportive environment with even more smiles and vigorous hand waving all round.
This early in the school year the program concludes with the gong being sounded and the children returning to their family homes filled with a nourishing meal. Once the classes stabilize the classes will continue into early afternoon and earnest study for the coming year will have commenced.