We supported 12 pre-schools in 2019 as part of the Coexistence Project thanks to contributions from individual sponsors and the US Fish & Wildlife Asian elephant conservation funds. We visited each of the schools toward the end of the year to take stock of what was done and meet the parents of the children. We were also invited to attend the school play and other festivities, where we distributed small packs of school supplies for the kids.
The teachers universally appreciated that we had asked them to decide what was most needed in their pre-schools rather than doing so our ourselves, and the smooth process for receiving the assistance they had been promised. A series of posts this week and next provide a run-down of the improvements made at each school and our experiences at them; photos were taken with their permission to post.
Our first stop was Leonsin Samagi preschool, the oldest of the schools. The head teacher, Ms. Ranjani, had been around for more than 40 years, meaning that it must have started when the village was first settled. Some families had attended over three successive generations. The two teachers, one of whom had been there since the beginning, were witnesses to the changes in the surrounding landscape and villages. We expected that a preschool with such a history would have extensive ties to the community. But this wasn’t the case, as the young people tended to move away upon completing their education and families maintained few ties with the school. With our support they purchased a standing cupboard and shelf, playground equipment and wire frame for hanging students’ personal items.
The next stop was Chuti Tharu, where we had the opportunity to speak at length with the teacher, Ms. Jothipala, and parents one-on-one to learn more about the community. Soft-spoken, Ms. Jothipala welcomed us with a brilliant smile as she expressed her joy. They were able to obtain a standing cupboard, electrical wiring for the pre-school, connection to the power grid and playground equipment.
At Sigithi preschool in Nikawewa, the children greeted us all by individually presenting us with a small stack of betel leaves, another tradition signifying respect and goodwill. The building sported a fresh wall mural that spruced up the exterior, while their new electrical wiring was inaugurated by ceremoniously flipping a ribbon-festooned light switch for the first time. They additionally purchased a cupboard, shelf, and music player.
The fourth school we visited was one of the closest to a forest edge. Being remote, Mithuru is the only pre-school for the area and so has many children. It had been established fifteen years ago, and was therefore one of the newest schools but had remained closed for several years until the arrival of their energetic new teacher, Ms. Krishanti. We were pleased at a huge turnout of parents, taking the opportunity to gain more insight into their daily challenges living so close to the forest. As if to demonstrate the fact, an elephant had ripped out part of the swing at their playground just the previous week. With our support the classroom now has 20 new sets of desks and chairs, cupboard, and playground equipment.