Education is key!
Despite what we might think, poverty is not the decisive ingredient for a good life. When we saw the light shining out of the students’ eyes at the school, we knew something was totally different from the melancholy we had seen on our journey through so many obscure and forgotten villages.
We had finally arrived in the village of Chinamuthevi. The bustling and enterprising town of Hyderabad with its 7 million inhabitants was now well over 200 miles behind us. The drive had been tense. For about 7 hours we had zigzagged our way along the tortuous road avoiding over-loaded old trucks, tiny three-wheeled taxis with as many as 15 adults on board, ancient buses, motor-scooters, bicycles and even the odd buffalo, not to mention the monkeys alongside the road! We had travelled through Vijaywada to the more coastal town of Machilipatnam. The following morning, we left our familiar civilised society behind us and made our way into the villages arriving at Chinamuthevi. Water would now only come from a well. The familiar world of banks, post-offices, shops and coffee bars were far away.
As we turned from the asphalted road onto the mud tracks of the village, there stood Tabitha the headmistress of the school, the teachers and the entire student body of 86 smartly dressed youngsters from Native Upper Primary School which was started 11 years ago. We were greeted with animated songs, rhythmic stick-knocking, beautifully decorated banners, hand clapping, and an atmosphere of joy which rang out across the nearby rice fields. This festive reception was just the beginning of our intense week among the 300 inhabitants of this village.
Into our two extra suitcases, which Air Emirates had given us special permission to take free of charge on our flight from Venice to Hyderabad, we had jammed all kinds of teaching materials for the teachers and children. Many of these “treasures” had been given to us by the students of our English Courses in Vicenza, members of our church and other friends. It was fantastic to see the first basketball pole being erected in the centre of the playing area outside the school and share the noisy enthusiasm whenever anyone could get the ball into the basket.
Even though the principal language of the area is Telegu a large part of the teaching takes place in English. In India speaking English is one of the vital ingredients which opens doors of opportunity to children. It is usually only afforded by the wealthy in society.
A very precious memory is when we visited Deelip’s tiny, thatched hut, where we listened to his mother, Salomi read. She was formerly illiterate. She had learned to read and write from her son! Tears literally flowed from her eyes as she so movingly described how the school had brought to her family and their 3 children a life which she had thought impossible.
In another overcrowded minuscule hut, we were impressed to see how neat everything was. Their son, when he began to go to school had asked for a place to keep his new school clothes. The home was reorganised and so too was their life, because now the parents had to make sure he was punctual at the school. What a privilege it was for us to visit this home, to see such cleanliness in the tiny, thatched hut, where there was no running water and outside only thick mud tracks, which can become quite treacherous when the monsoon rains set in.
The following day, we went to visit another family in a nearby village. As we turned the corner onto the mud tracks of Nidomulu, all of the families with children in the school had set-up an ‘ambush’ in the form of a surprise reception for us and Edgar Sathuluri, the director and founder of Native. Even the mayor had come, and he made a speech expressing his thanks to Native and the School for the immense benefits his village had received through them.
Throughout the week in the village, we tangibly saw the benefits the school brings to everyone. Our Charity, Native Onlus, has a motto for the school which states “A light that shines in the darkness”. Clearly, through the school, poverty is being overcome by a new and better hope. The families are still materially poor but the joy which sparkles in their eyes reveals a hope which goes beyond the material. The homes that lack furniture and the typical western comforts, have a profound sense of happiness and optimism that fills the air.
Here in Italy. when we of Native Onlus speak to promote interest in the school, we state:
“In an ocean of need, every drop counts” then we are thrilled for all the drops which folk in Vicenza and Italy have channelled to the Native Upper Primary School in Chinamuthevi.
Our sincere “thanks” go to everyone who has shared in this initiative which, we trust, this autumn will further advance with the construction of a new building. Even better – we are delighted that through the kindness of an Italian businessman the school will have running drinking water.
Paul and Frances Finch