Today Ramona and Purnendu went to meet the smallest of our school children at his home. His name is Vipul and he is five years old.
When Vipul’s mother came for admitting Vipul to our school, we actually thought about denying due to his age. We usually don’t take children at lower age than five years, as we believe those years are too precious and meant to be years for playing, not for sitting in a school’s classroom. He did however already know some writing and reading, which his mother had taught him at home, and he looked so utterly disappointed that we decided to make an exception. And it proved to be a very good decision.
Vipul’s class teacher said that of all children he is the one that works the hardest – and although his mother herself has only learned until the third grade, she tries her best to teach him at home and help him with his homework.
Vipul lives alone with his mother and father but he is not really a single child. He has one half-brother and one sister. His father had been married before but his first wife had died. Vipul’s mother first gave birth to a girl and five years later to Vipul. The year she gave birth to Vipul was the year they decided to leave their home in West Bengal and move to Vrindavan where they thought Vipul’s father would get work.
Well, it didn’t work as well as they thought. Not having been to school and not having any training in a profession, he did not have many options. He drove a rickshaw but not successfully, so now he does daily labour on construction sites. He earns about 4 US-Dollar a day whenever he gets work – which is not every day.
Nevertheless, they thought their situation to be better than in West Bengal and their future to be in Vrindavan. Their only reason for sadness: both elder children, the teenage boy and the ten-year-old girl are still in West Bengal! Once a year they go to see them.
Two years ago Vipul’s parents decided to buy a plot. It is a small place, close to the Yamuna and they pay about 15 US-Dollar every month as an installment. They are living there already but will have to pay several years more until it will be truly theirs. It is only one small room and it gets flooded every year but they are happy it is theirs. They keep two cows who give milk.
From time to time, they don’t have the money to pay their monthly installment. That was the mother’s biggest worry: they would not be able to regularly pay for school, either! And they are very happy that their son can learn at our school, even though he has a long way to walk: they live far out and even after the closest place that the school bus can go, he still has to walk through small sandy streets, some narrow enough for just one motorcycle. He manages very well – and we can see that through the help of our school, this clever boy will have a bright future!