Why Start a Grain School?

The village of Mahabadia is situated 17 kms from the city of Bhopal on the Kolar Road. It is a village dominated by influential rich landowners who own most of the land. There are mostly Other Backward Class, Dalit and Adivasi people in the village who are landless and have to work on the farms of the influential people for paltry wages. They also do backbreaking labour in stone quarries and brick kilns which makes them ill.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is supposed to provide each household with 100 days of work annually. However, the reality is that in 2009-10 only three households out of the total of 162 households received a total of 42 days of employment. This works out to 14 days of work for each of the three households. What is even more of a concern is that if the 159 households who did not get work are taken into account then the average work offered per household comes to only 0.25 days. ( Calculated on the basis of data on the MGNREGS website - http://www.nrega.nic.in).
When this is the level of apathy of the government to the plight of the poor then civil society has to step in. That is exactly what Ahambhumika has done by acting as a conduit to link the poor of Mahabadia village to the privileged sections of Bhopal city. It is well known that poor households can overcome their poverty only when the women become educated. The Grain School is aimed at doing just this. The students of the following schools in Bhopal have contributed  20 quintals of grain and pulses to fund this effort -
1. Delhi Public School - 4 quintals
2. St. Theresa's Girls School - 4 quintals
3. St. Xavier's School - 1 quintal
4. Billabong High School - 1 quintal
5. St. Paul's School - 4 quintal
6. Bonnie Foi School - 1 quintal
7. St. Thomas School - 1 quintal
8. Queen Mary's School - 4 quintal
A total of twenty poor women- 14 from the Daroi adivasi community, 1 from the Korku adivasi community, 4 from the Other Backward Class Banjara community and 1 from the Muslim community are studying in this school. Given their need to work during the day and also take care of the domestic responsibilities these women do not have time to study. That is why the Grain School provides them with 20 kgs of wheat, 3 kgs of rice and 1 kg of pulses per month to study. The village ASHA worker is given 50 kgs of wheat, 10 kgs of rice and 2 kgs of pulses to teach these women. The school has commenced from 15th November 2010 and is running well.
The plan is to first teach these women to read, write and do arithmetic and then continue the school as a study circle where they learn various other skills relevant to improving their livelihoods. It has been rightly said that development should mean giving someone a fishing rod and teaching her to fish rather than giving her fish to eat continually. This is precisely what the Grain School is doing by teaching the poor women of Mahabadia the skills that will enable them to put their precarious livelihoods on a sustainable footing.
The great thing about this effort is that it has roped in the children of privileged sections of society to contribute to the development of the under-privileged. Where the government has failed to fulfill its mandate to provide welfare services to the poor civil society has stepped in to fill the gap in a commendable way.
Guest post by Rahul Banerjee


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