...In India, about 72,000 children are born every day (approximately 1 birth every 1.2 seconds)! Nearly half of those children will not have access to adequate nutrition, let alone be able to receive a proper education. Last Sunday, we underwent what is to me the most difficult job of Squalor to Scholar, selecting new students. For each student we eventually admit, there are dozens of deserving children their age and gender nearby that we must refuse. I know that, without our presence, none of these children would likely ever attend a school capable of giving them a meaningful education. Although we help as many children as we can, there will always be more waiting.
On Saturday evening, after most adults have usually returned home from their factories, construction sites, and rickshaw pulling, we tried something that we had never tried before. I had Mithlesh, the slum's only English-speaking resident, walk through the entire slum to announce a meeting that would occur at 11am the next morning. For three hours, he walked from one end of the slum to the other informing residents that we would like all 3.5-4.5-year-old females and their families to be present at our important meeting for further information about being enrolled in the most prestigious school around.
When we arrived for the meeting at 11am the next morning, 31 little girls and their families were waiting for us. Having learned from our selection process last year, we verified the documentation and eligibility of each child and photographed them with their names and birthdays so we could identify them later. We then informed the families of the significance and responsibility associated with this wonderful opportunity. We also answered several questions and ensured the long-term commitment of each family should they be selected.
These are just a few of the precious children we had the fortune of meeting:
We then asked all parents and family members to leave the room for 90 minutes while we evaluated each of the children further. They stepped outside and stood right next to the door. For many of the little children, it was their first moment away from their mother or father. About half cried bloody murder while the other half just stared at them baffled by the whole situation.
As you might remember, I was first informed in October of the plans to admit fifteen 3.5-4.5-year-old girls to the Carmel Convent School this admissions cycle. Since I was back in the United States at that time, Mamta performed an initial evaluation of students meeting the necessary criteria and has been teaching many of these students since to prepare them for the final selection process. Her specific knowledge about and experience with each of the children and their families has proven invaluable in the selection process. Thanks to Mamta's dedicated work, many of the students now know how to count, write their ABC's, and sing multiple songs. Thank you Mamta! We could not do this without you.
--Manish even accompanied his older sister to the meeting--
In addition to Mamta's evaluations of each child, we further tested their levels of writing and speaking, as well as their general attitude toward learning. These children are approximately half the age of the students we took last year, thus requiring a much different mentality when determining how to evaluate "talent."
In the end, we whittled down the original 31 children to 19. The sisters have also selected some of their own children and they will be added to our final list.
--Mamta instructing families about the next step in the process--
--A mother waiting for her daughter and our decisions that will impact their futures--
One more step remains: to introduce our top children to the sisters and have them select the final 15 students for registration. I'll be back soon to bring you with us and introduce the Squalor to Scholar Class of 2027.