Construction of Additional Classrooms for Loyola English Medium School Khunti, Jharkhand - India

Project location: INDIA, Khunti, Jharkhand
Project start date: September 2017 - Project end date: August 2018
Project number: 2017-061
Beneficiary: Ranchi Jesuits

Jharkhand ("the Land of Forests") has an area of 79.710 km2 (of which 31% is covered with hills and forests), 24 Districts, 260 blocks, 32.620 villages and 32,96 million inhabitants (according to the last 2011 census). Despite the state is the second leading producer of mineral wealth (iron ore, coal, copper ore, mica, bauxite, uranium, etc.) and despite forest resources, more than 50% of overall population is below poverty line; Tribals (Adivasi) are 28% of total population, Dalit (Scheduled caste) are 12%; each Tribal group has a specific identity and specific customs and traditions. What they have in common is the special bond with the land in which they live in symbiosis and from which they derive what is necessary to survive. Tribals have a deeply spiritual view of life; for them "walking is dancing, talking is singing."

Many tribal groups are sensitive to ecological degradation caused by modernization; both commercial forestry and intensive farming have destroyed forests, source of their life. Tribals identity and survival are severely at risk, as their rights are not safeguarded. More than 90% Dalit and Adivasi are below poverty line. Only 40 % of villages are electrified, and only 8.484 are connected by roads.
There are 8 Blocks in Khunti District and 64.2% of total surface is covered by the forest. 76.15% of total area is populated by Schedule Tribes (Adivasis).

Most of villages in Khunti District are situated in the rural and forest covered hilly areas and there is lack of basic infrastructures like roads. All the villages are divided into big and small hamlets where people are residing. The major inhabitants of the region are Munda tribals; they normally are in possession of some agricultural, waste and pastoral land; overall ownership of land is less than 2 acres per house hold; soil is also not fertile because of hilly and rocky track; therefore, with the best harvest, which is solely dependent on monsoon rain, the best of families can afford to have food grain for about 5 to 6 months. Families generally grow paddy, maize, pulses and vegetables.

Munda tribals are facing social vulnerability and disintegration: having house hold food security is the prime economic need in the area, in particular during September and October; malnutrition and malaria are serious threats. People's life span is 50 years, with high child death cases. The need for investment on human resources is enormous; school is one of the key institutions which is open for all people irrespective of all caste and religious barriers, trying to shape the future of new generations; but, the area being surrounded by hills and forest, there are not many facilities for education; there are not enough government schools. Children very often have to help their parents in their work in the fields or look after their younger brothers and sisters; poverty and hunger are other main reasons for parents not sending their children to school. Total literacy rate of Jharkhand is 67%, but in Khunti District it is 64% (75% male, 53% female); in the project area it is even lower, estimated to 25%. In other schools currently run by Ranchi Jesuits, most of the students are the first generation who's attending classes.

The number of school drop outs is also increasing; in fact, due to lack of facilities, students are not able to manage their studies; they can then be attracted by criminal activities or frustration can lead them to alcohol-addiction. Another serious problem in the area is migration of young people, girls in particular, to cities, as house hold workers; they are then virtually lost to their families and tribe. Only very few of them manage to come back and often are unwed mothers or AIDS carriers.

Only investment on human resources can hope to bring long term, positive change and improvement. So education is a priority for Ranchi Jesuits.

In order to improve children education, Ranchi Jesuits' Province is running various accessible schools.

In particular, an English Medium School is run in Khunti since April 2014, to improve children's education in English and, consequently, their living, formation and working possibilities. English Medium Schools are expensive compared to Hindi vernacular schools, but they offer better facilities and higher quality, therefore parents prefer English Medium Schools, if they can afford for them.

The number of students currently attending this school is 148; staff consists of 7 teachers and 2 non teaching staff members. First classes started in 2014. Children attend classes from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm; they do not get meals in the school as Government does not give mid-day facilities to private schools such as Khunti English Medium School. Maximum distance from students' homes is currently 5 km; parents make arrangements to bring their children to school by walking or by bicycle or by rickshaws. The majority of students are Christians, but 40% are non-Christians. The school is not a boarding school but in some years time a building could be necessary for students coming from faraway villages.

The Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant for this project. The following are the activities forseen:

  1. A building built and equipped with 5 classrooms for 50 medium students/classroom, with toilet block and staircase included
  2. Access to medium education in English enabled to overall 400 tribal students in Khunti by 2019, when the 5 new classrooms will be fully used
  3. Qualified educational space and scope provided to tribals and to those belonging to the most deprived sections of society.
  4. 400 tribal students enabled to develop positive attitudes and integrate values of service and commitment towards the nation and humanity at large.
  5. Young talents discovered and enabled to shape their destiny.
  6. 400 tribal students accompanied in their intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual quest.
  7. 400 tribal students supported in their confidence and courage towards adequate and reasonable freedom.
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