MORE THAN A SCHOOL
In 2004, St. Anthony welcomed its first students: 160 children aged 4 to 9 who were distributed between kindergarten to 1st primary levels according to their abilities. A local association was created. Krishna, Mariamma and the ‘Principle' are managing the school. A dozen or so teachers come from very distant regions because instruction is in English and finding qualified staff is one of the hardest challenges.
The school is frequented by a mixed population: "The school is open to all!” Molly insists. ‘Well-off' children pay tuition fees that make it possible to look after the 200 children whose families lack the money to pay for education. Everyone is equal in school. Awareness-raising work is being done with families because many children are the first in their families to attend school. There exists also still a lot of discrimination against girls, who represent just over 20% of students, even though there are as many of them as there are boys in the region. Remedial classes and shuttle buses are organized by the school. Year after year, new classrooms have gone up, and already in 2006 the school had 600 children in 18 classes, up to 5th primary level.
After several years in Asmoli, the teaching team has developed initiatives to support the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. At the health level, basic hygiene campaigns are organized with the help of a physician, and at the economic level, they are encouraging villagers to pool their savings to set up a microcredit system.
THE FOUNDATION IN ACTION
Molly and Marc approach the BESIX Foundation to help fund the construction of this new building. This will house the necessary classes to take students to the end of their secondary education. In this way the best of them will be able to sit the entrance examinations to the university in one of India's major cities and others to acquire the necessary training to learn a rewarding profession.
A first wing, already well advanced, could be completed in 2010. Ultimately, this new building will house 900 additional children, a clinic providing basic health care to the inhabitants of the surrounding villages and a multipurpose room to organize in particular training courses for women.
“I had an opportunity to visit the site in August. It was my first experience of India, and my first direct contact with the projects supported by the Foundation abroad. These were exciting and enriching encounters that can only motivate us to move forward! Thank you to all who support our Foundation!” Donatienne de Spirlet, BESIX Foundation.
AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE!
Eva Heirbaut, Civil Engineer, Design Department, BESIX Contracting, took the initiative during her vacation to discover St. Anthony's School. An interesting and enriching field visit.
“When I learned that the BESIX Foundation was supporting a project 200 km from Delhi, I decided to make a detour during my vacation in northern India”, says Eva.
“I had the opportunity to visit St Anthony's School in action, the worksite of the new building just next to it, and the neighboring village, including a government school. A day of extremities.
What Molly and Marc have realized on the spot is unbelievable. The youngest already speak English which is unusual in such remote regions. The education the children receive here is immeasurably better than that provided in state schools. To ensure quality, teachers are selected from all different regions of India so that collaboration is not always easy. The school is impressive, built in the middle of nowhere. It's touching to see how the 620 children, large and small, all in impeccable uniform, formed long rows for morning assembly. Discipline in that school is astonishing, especially knowing where the pupils come from. The contrast between the life of these children at St Anthony's and their family environment is beyond imagination.
Social relations, the caste system, parent poverty, the search for qualified and motivated teachers, the difficulties of communication, the environment ... are all major challenges that Molly and Marc face daily, but the result ... is here!
Seeing these children follow classes attentively and operate their computers with at times greater dexterity
than their teachers is wonderful to see. This opening to the world is necessary and is certainly worth encouraging!”