Loreto Sealdah.

We had our first day at Loreto Day School Sealdah . What an AMAZING place. The 4 of us (Colleen arrived late last night) met up with our professor at the school and we had an orientation with Sanghita, the international volunteer coordinator. The school is totally incredible, and I just have to share the many, many projects that are going on at Loreto. We got a great handout during the orientation that details all of the projects that Loreto and Sr. Cyril oversee.

Mission Statement: Ours is a school with 1500 female students of which 721 are so poor that every need has to be taken care of – food, medicines, rations, shoes, books, uniforms, even money to help meet rent when eviction threatens. In many instances, we have also helped families set up a small scale business, by providing interest-free loans in order to become self-supporting. Sometimes we have reached out to the family as a whole, be it a drug addict father, or an errant sibling, or an ailing member. Our doors are always open.
We believe that education is a liberating influence which must be open to all, and has the potential to challenge social equations.
Ours is a school which has taken on the challenge to promote and advocate the idea of social sensitization to students in other schools. To conscientize them to open up their schools to children of disadvantaged communities and enable them to access some of their basic rights – education, recreation, leisure.

(Loreto has 60 teachers on staff and 25-30 support staff who are in charge of projects, office, etc.)

In addition to running a proper English medium school, Loreto also runs the following programs:

1. Hidden Domestic Child Labour – Drop in Centers
(Students at the school and Rainbows in the Rainbow Program identify children working in tea shops and homes. The HDCL intervention program provides drop in centers for child laborers to learn and play. The landlady of the guesthouse where we are staying, Cecilia, is involved in the HDCL drop in center program.)

Child Workers Identified-1480
Admitted to School-445

2. Barefoot Training
(This program provides training to teachers who go out to rural villages to set up schools. These so-called “barefoot teachers” are people who may not have enough formal education-i.e. not through grade 10-to be accepted to a teacher training college. The Barefoot program provides intensive training to the teachers through observation and practice. It is not full training, because the program leaves out a lot of pedagogy and theory that might not be relevant to teachers in slum conditions. The name “Barefoot” comes from the idea that shoes are nice, but you need your feet to walk–these teachers don’t have full training, but they have enough to get by and be successful.)

7000 teachers trained
350000 children affected

3. Shikshalaya Prokalpa
(I have no idea what the name means, but this program began in 1988 and is an initiative to open schools in slums. Loreto has NGO partners for funding, and provides slum schools with trunks full of teaching materials. In 1999, Loreto and partner organizations conducted a survey of Kolkata and found that 140000 children in Kolkata alone were not attending schools. Shikshalaya Prokalpa helps to provide these children with opportunities to learn.)

1400 teachers trained
470 centres opened in slums for 26000 children

4. Brickfields
(West and South of Kolkata, there are about 120 brick fields. Migrant workers fill the fields and work in conditions that basically amount to modern-day slavery. Families work in the fields 6-8 months per year. For every 1000 bricks that the families produce, they are paid between 60-150 rupees, which is about 1-3 dollars. The maximum amount of bricks that a family could produce in a day is around 2000. Since the children living at the brickfields are expected to work and produce, none of them go to school. Loreto conducted a survey and found that out of the 120 brick fields in West Bengal, each one had about 50 children. Loreto talked with some of the brickfield owners, and 26 of them agreed to allow for a school to be set up. Children attend school during the midday break from 11 am – 2 pm.)

26 schools started
1300 children served
30 teachers trained

5. Human Rights Education
(Loreto teaches a values-based education, and has served as a model for the state of West Bengal with its Human Rights education program.)

5 districts involved
45 government schools
18 private schools
141 teachers trained
State Advisory Committee formed

6. Microcredit
(You’re probably familiar with the concept of microcredit–very small, interest-free loans provided to families, sometimes women, to start businesses. In addition to providing microcredit, Loreto uses networking to help students’ families. If teachers need drivers, maids, or babysitters, they will try to give those jobs to the parents of students.)

7. Bhalobasha
(Another name that I don’t know, but this program involves the Rainbow students. They go out each day and bring lunch to elderly people who live on the streets and cannot move from the spot where they sit. I really like this program, because the Rainbow students are receiving help themselves and come from poor backgrounds–this does not stop them from helping those even less fortunate than themselves.)

45 elderly
14 residential

8. Challenged Children
(This is the special education program at the school. I was SO excited to learn that Loreto has a dedicated program for special needs kids. The special needs students spend one hour a day with a resource teacher, and the rest of their time is spent in integrated classrooms. All Loreto classes are taught using group work, so regular students help and support the special needs students with classwork. This model is going to be perfect for my research!)

30 children

9. Sampurna
(This is a program that has set up schools in a railroad community on the outskirts of Kolkata. The homes/huts are built into the railroad embankment on the Eastern Bypass.)

10 schools started
1200 children served
50 teachers trained

10. Regular School

700 free
700 paying

11. Rainbow Program

247 Residential
100 Day Scholars

12. Rural Child to Child

3500 children taught each Thursday by 150 Loreto Sealdah girls

13. 5 Secular Schools
(Built for 6260 pupils)

14. Childline
(This is a domestic hotline that alerts Loreto to runaway or abandoned children who are in need of rescuing.)

93 calls received
1800 awareness
1000 public places
800 KMC schools

Loreto is truly an incredible place. I’m looking forward to spending more time there in the coming weeks!


1 Comment

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One response to “Loreto Sealdah.

  1. Mike Holsinger

    Wow. I had no idea there was so much going on. It seems overwhelming just reading this list. Can’t imagine what a special place Loreto must be. Cherish every moment!

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