Faith Tribal School
One of the main objectives of the Garston Trust is the advancement of education. The Kings School in Harpenden was birthed in Garston, and the Fingerprints pre-school and nurseries at Garston and Hemel Hempstead also. Alongside our concerns for orphans, we had a concern for the children in Tribal villages, where there was no history of formal education whatsoever. Either because of location, or the need for the children to work to aid family income, we found that in villages where we had established a church, there was a need to provide a school for the children.
We started in the village of Gunter district where we had established Faith Church. There was no school within the reach of the children. None of the parents and previous generations of parents had had any formal education. We approached the parents for their support, but found that from the age of 4 or 5 the children were needed to collect paper and plastic from rubbish heaps, to supplement the families income. The paper/plastic collection one day provided the money to buy rice for the next days.
Over period, we convinced the parents that education was a good thing for their children. Eventually, we offered to provide a main meal for the children, six days a week, throughout the year. The basic plan was to have the children from about 4 to 12 years old in one class, taught, by a Christian teacher, and with a cook/assistant to prepare daily meals. The Pastor would oversee the school. But we teach the Indian curriculum, but teach the children about Jesus, singing Christian children’s songs and praying together daily.
In two other villages, were the children had no possibility of attending a school, we have done the same thing, and normally have about 40 children in each school. We use slates and not paper, but sometimes have coloured teaching books for the children. The children are really poor, few have shoes, or more than one set of clothes at a time. The younger boys sometimes do not have trousers. But the children are well behaved in class, attend almost 100 percent, and are sparking bright.
The idea has been that if we can teach them well, by the time they are 12 years old they should be able to fit in with the other children in the government school. So far about 20 children have done so. But in these Tribal villages, often boys and girls marry from the age of twelve. This results, in addition to the children in the class, there being a row of 13 and 14 year old girls sitting at the back with their babies. Their young husbands would be working to collect rubbish, or in the fields, to provide for their families.
The three school have been running for about 10 years now and face real challenges. One school had its building (a shed on the pavement in a crowded tribal area) knocked down by the local council so that the road could be widened to give better access to a recently built Mosque. It’s not possible to buy or even rent a room for school from the Hindus around, so the school meets on a tarpaulin placed at the end of the road. Lessons are limited to times when the area is in shadow, and it is not raining, but the attendance and behaviour of the children is excellent.
A Fourth School
We are now considering a fourth school, for a Tribal group who have been moved from Banana Island by the government to a better piece of land, but is some kilometres from the nearest school. We are currently constructing a building for a church on the site, which we could use for school also.
Finance is a key issue. The tribal people have lived on the edge of Indian society for generations. They live from hand to mouth, so have no spare money for education, and their offering is usually a small bag of rice. This means that the schools are completely supported from Garston. The Christians teacher’s work for a fifth of teachers minimum pay, and the cook/assistants for a few pounds a month. The children have a meal of riced and dhal, with an egg on Fridays, and sometimes a banana at the start of the day. God provided a series of Christian teachers for this work, without whom it would not exist, and we trust that He will continue to do this.
Things have improved greatly over the past 20 years, but the benefits have not yet reached these people. Please pray that more and more will be saved, and that these children will carry their personal knowledge of Christ into their, homes, so that the new generation of Tribal will know the blessings of God, reflected in whole of their life experience.