Scarlet had her first day of school this week. We all woke up as a family and had breakfast. Then we packed her a lunch with healthy food, packed her backpack with her favorite book and favorite water bottle, and sent her on her way to first grade.
Then we picked her up, as a family (but with three-year-old Des asleep in my arms) and took her home to hear all about her day. I had to fill out about 20 pieces of paperwork and she told me about how first grade is so much harder than kindergarten, and how she didn’t know whether to bring lunch or buy lunch. Above all, I feel so lucky to have this privilege of having her in a loving and caring school, because she is hungry to learn and she is getting a wonderful education, both in school and out.
She knows that we make tough choices, but they’re only between different schools and different daycares – all unique and nourishing in their own ways. These choices aren’t really tough, because we are lucky to have more choices than barriers.
Laxmi Pal is a 12-year-old girl who grew up in a tiny thatched-rooof hut in Kodanna village, believing she didn’t belong in school. In this rural farming village of 90 families, girls are often seen as outsiders and they do housework and look after younger siblings until they get married and move out at age 14. Laxmi is the oldest of five kids, so the burden of family care fell on her shoulders. She spent entire days home alone with her siblings, feeling sad and entrapped, while her parents were out working. On July 15th, Laxmi broke tradition by setting foot in a classroom for the first time, and becoming the only member of her family to ever go to school. Just 15 miles from Kodanna, adolescent girls like Laxmi are being given a first or second chance to learn through an accelerated bridge course at the CARE-suppored Udaan residential school in Hardoi.
Laxmi will graduate from fifth grade after 11 months at the Udaan school. She will then be mainstreamed into a government school to continue her education. Last year, a storm flooded her village and a wall fell and buried her under the mud. Her family feared her dead, but Laxmi was rushed to the hospital. Her Uncle Raj has become her caretaker and will make sure she stays in school and waits to marry. Every year, a new class of 100 girls between 11 and 14 will attend the Udaan school. Since CARE and their local partner – Sarvodaya Ashram – opened the Udaan campus in 1999, 98 percent of the girls have passed the fifth grade exam and 90 percent continued their schooling at a formal school, receiving above average grades.
Laxmi has discovered art since coming to Udaan, and her drawings hang in the classroom – which doubles as a dorm room. She was thrilled to participate in CARE’s art collection activity, and creating art has made her very happy.
Many girls, like Laxmi, are hungry to learn and are benefiting from CARE helping to fuel and foster girls’ education. There are barriers that stop young girls from earning and/or continuing an education:
– Keeping girls out of school sentences them to a life of poverty and poor health
– Women earn 10-20% more for every year of school completed – Children of educated mothers are 2x as likely to go to school
– Children born to literate moms are 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5.
The good news is that you can help. You can visit and read more about CARE’s work for girls’ education HERE. The best back to school gift you can give is a gift that helps other kids go to school. The gift catalog found HERE will support girls’ education around the world. CARE is working to remove the barriers to education that are keeping an estimated 31 million girls around the world out of school. A gift as little as $10 makes a difference. School uniforms for two girls are only $38.