» India and its poor

What is India doing for its poor?
India does have a government programme for the poor and for the members of the lowest caste. A red card entitles the poor to flour, sugar, rice and dahl. A green card is good for cooking fuel. State run schools offer free education, books and uniforms until 6th grade, and then, until they finish the 12th grade, pupils pay lower fees and receive a bicycle when they live further than 3 kilometers from the school. Girls who finish the 12th grade receive a bonus of Rs. 20,000 (over €300). Universities give discounts on tuition fees to the poorest students and have a lenient admission policy for them.

Why then are foundations like ours still necessary?
Mainly because the quality of the education in state run schools still leaves much to be desired: there is often only one teacher available for 100 children. There is also a lack of the most basic educational material. The poorest people are often illiterate members of the lowest caste. Obtaining a red or green card, a bicycle or a bonus is virtually impossible for them, unless they get help. The Ashray Social Centre – which includes our Ashray School – plays a crucial role in solving these matters. However, empowering people takes time, a lot of time.

The Benares Schoolfund Foundation is convinced that good education is essential in rising above poverty and desperation and that is why we will continue our work until state run education in India offers adequate quality, and private schools can be afforded by the poor as well.

The right to education
In April 2010 we received excited e-mails from Varanasi: India’s parliament had passed a law giving every child from the age of six the right to education. This is a significant development, al- though it remains to be seen whether this law will make much difference in practice. Hopefully it means that in the long run schools such as ours will get government funding and that the poorest of the poor will also receive high-quality education regulated by the state. The law does mean that people can now demand education, which is a great improvement. However, we are still a long way from good education.