Week in Punjab, India

2019 Teaching Volunteers

In late July in 2019, my family and I travelled to Amritsar, in Punjab, India. A long distance away from the airport, we drove together to a village named Rattar Chhattar. The rural village was small, with a population of only 722 people. We were greeted by the hospitality and the warmth of Mr Sukhwant’s family. Soon after a delectable meal, we were taken off to bed and tired from our journey, we slept heavily to be awakened by chirping birds and emerald green padi fields embellished by mango trees. There were many cows walking along the fields, some carrying goods and with their owners.  

The school where we had come to spend our week was a short walk from Mr Sukhwant’s family home. Two storeys high, with many classrooms, the concrete school campus sat in the midst of a polluted, contaminated pond but edged by luscious mango and Ashoka trees, overlooking expansive green fields.  

The school reflects Mr Sukhwant’s determination to build an institution based on a blend of up-to-date infrastructure and contemporary education all funded by Mr Sukhwant himself. The experience we had was both engaging and uplifting as we got to meet many new faces as well as educating students about topics that they had never encountered before. Specifically, I thoroughly enjoyed giving a presentation to Year 4 and 5 about Singapore and its culture and history. It was rewarding to see their keen interest in learning about a new country. Most of all, I enjoyed building strong personal relationships with the students there and learning from them as much as they learnt from me. We met with many children, who come from very simple, modest backgrounds but are yet, so content and full of joy. It was pleasurable to meet and befriend all the students at Socrates Academy.

Recently, I was sad to hear that the school has been badly affected by Covid-19. Due to the pandemic, many parents in the community have lost their livelihoods and source of income which has meant that they can no longer afford to send their children to school. However, the school has waived its fees for the less privileged students (approximately 60% of the student population). Whilst remote learning has become the norm for most children in the developed countries, this is sadly not possible in the poorer parts of the world. Lack of affordability for smart phones or laptops and weak infrastructure make home learning almost impossible. This places a significant burden on schools with limited funding such as Socrates Academy.

I felt compelled to reach out to family, friends and my UK school community in an attempt to raise funds to help this fantastic school. The main areas they need support in are: fees, books and uniform, computers and stable internet connections so children can access school from home.

Below is a list of statements which shows how much students’ lives can change with a modest donation from you.

The campaign to raise funds aims to achieve the following: 

· To assist with payment of fees and school books for children whose families are impacted by loss of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The school currently waives fees from these children. (approximate costs for books and uniform of USD 15,000 p.a. for the entire population of 300 students)

· To assist with the purchase of smartphones or tablets for 40 children who are unable to attend virtual classes due to the pandemic. (approximate costs of USD 8,000 including annual wifi)

· To assist with increased expenditure due to internet and technical support costs associated with online classes. (approximate costs of USD 6,000 p.a.)

· To assist with payment of teachers’ salaries following the steep drop in fee collection as a result of the pandemic. (approximate costs of USD 35,000 p.a. for teaching staff salaries)

My dream is that everyone reading this blog could find some money to spare so that Socrates Academy can improve its ability to teach in this remote corner of the world so that students can uplift themselves.

Thank you so much for taking the time out to read this blog and I do hope you will consider making a donation through the campaign launched in the Justgiving platform. Please click on the following Justgiving weblink for further details.

By: Riona Krishnan Dighe, London (age 12)

Some memorable photographs are attached below:

Back to nature with the green green rice fields of Punjab
Sunrise from Mr Sukhwant’s balcony
Whole family on a motorbike!
Hitching a ride!
School staff with volunteers in 2019
With Kindergarten class
English reading to Grade 3 class
My presentation on Singapore in the new library
An introduction to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore being translated in Punjabi to Grade 6 class
Punjabi dance by girls in school cultural event
Vibrant Bhangra Dance
Attempting Punjabi Dance with the graceful Mainjeet
Excursion to the Golden Temple with Mr Sukhwant’s mother and niece Nisha