A brief update on the Topsia Evening Class Education project in Kolkata

I am in regular touch with Parveen our programme co-ordinator and who has taken a special interest in this cohort of young people.  This is what she tells me:

  • Our centres are open and the vulnerable children from our communities are coming in for daily classes. As you see from the photos social distancing is minimal, but then their living conditions also make it impossible.  There is a very low instance of the virus in these communities (very young population… make your own conclusions)
  • We have recently started dedicated English lessons for the Topsia Evening Class (something they have been clamouring for). Aftab has been with Tiljala SHED for many years, speaks and writes beautiful English after spending time in London as a young man. He never saw himself as a teacher – but as with so many in the pandemic, he has found a new role for himself. He teaches every weekday – the kids are very lucky and thrilled to have formal English teaching.
Aftab’s English Class

Using smartphones for online learning

We distributed 20 smartphones after a fundraising push in September. These enable the children to access their schoolteachers and to engage in online learning. They are finding this extremely helpful. It really is a leveller in a society where middle-class kids have phones as a matter of course.  There are more youngsters who need phones – we will distribute phones as funds come in

Saika and her new bicycle

We were able to buy a bicycle for Saika. She attends extra tuition classes and needs the bike to travel. I have also received requests from Suman and Bhola. Both these boys also attend distant tuition. Suman collects large bundles of slippers to bring home for his mother to trim (she will earn less than £1 a day for this). He carries the bundle on his head at the moment, but the bike would make it easier and he could carry more. Bhola also wants to cycle to keep fit. He is very keen to join the army or police force. The bikes cost about £48 each. Thanks to your sponsorship, they will get their bikes.

Heera-di takes Rina to collect medication

Rina had a medical issue in December, but thanks to her sponsor, her expenses were paid. Our oldest and most experienced staff member, Heera-di, accompanies Rina to her medical appointments. Rina received her smartphone in November and is happily getting on with her online schoolwork. She attends Aftab’s English classes as well as external tuitions. She is studying for her class X board exams in May.

Bhola quizzes the Deputy Commissioner of Police

Last week the Evening Class were paid a visit by the new Deputy Commissioner of Police Mr Faiyez Ahmed. He was there to give a motivational speech and encourage the youngsters to think about a career in public service. The youngsters were enthralled. Bhola and Qumrun among others were particularly interested. Mr Ahmed will continue to offer moral support. With your sponsorship, the children’s enthusiasm and hard work, Mr Ahmed’s support and Tiljala SHED’s facilitation, there is a very exciting future for these children. Do please follow Tiljala SHED on Facebook. You can read about the event there.

Saika and DCP Ahmed
  • Qumrun and Rohit are very hardworking young people. They are both working towards their class X exams this summer. Because they have a sponsor, they are able to attend external coaching classes. We expect these two to do very well.
  • Parveen also asked me to authorise the provision of dry rations (flour, rice, onions, lentils etc) for the families of Rina, Suman, Bhola and Neha. Thanks to our sponsors, this will happen. All these children are from destitute families which have suffered very badly during the lockdown. Many families will need this kind of support – especially as we are asking them to keep their children in education and out of paid work for many years longer than they had expected.

There are total 20 young people in this Topsia Evening Class group at the moment. 6 of them have named sponsors. There are anonymous sponsors for 4 more.  I am looking for another 10 sponsors to sign up for £30 a month. After that there are about 40 more young people in secondary education who need the same kind of help. We are paying for teachers’ salaries and other basic expenses out of general donations, but to ensure the long-term success of the project we need a substantial list of regular donors who can commit to monthly contributions. If you know of anyone who might like to get involved, do please let me know.

Meanwhile, thank you so much for your amazing support. You are changing lives and giving hope for a better future.

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