Prajna Vihar School Reports 2001 - 2006
2001 REPORT - PRAGYA VIHAR SCHOOL
Much sadness surrounded news of Thomas Jost's death. His skills
as the director and his friendship will be sorely missed. However,
we have been very fortunate in that an old friend to Bodhgaya
and the school, Katie Mitchell, has volunteered to do what she
can to help us out. She is a frequent visitor to Bodhgaya and
a lady of many talents. We are very grateful for any help that
she is able to give.
The school is running smoothly and competently with an attendance
of 350 children. Many thanks to the teachers and particularly
the headmistress, Sister Anjali.
We continue to be very proud of the school and the quality
of the students. It has now reached the second stage of development;
the school is stable in its basic needs and now the emphasis
is focused on continued improvement of facilities and the quality
We have maintained our commitment of a 1/3 of the schools
budget, the other 2/3 being raised in India and Europe. Next
year there will be another raise as we have increased the teachers'
salaries and the Australian dollar has fallen against the Indian
There are many areas that need attention and the acquisition
of new land for a secondary school has not yet eventuated. Charitable
status in India has also not as yet been achieved. In severe
monsoons, the schoolyard floods so badly that the school must
be closed for days at a time. The first two issues are close
to being achieved; the last is difficult because of the lowness
of the land.As all of you who read this and have been to India
would know, things can seem to take a long time before progress
Yet, in other areas things are changing very quickly. We managed
to get a complete bank record in only two hours - we were all
totally amazed! Yes, India is changing. Internet cafes all over,
more regular, irregular power and an amazing array of middle
class comforts. The downside to this is the gap between the haves
and the have-nots is growing and the organic nature of Indian
society seems to be breaking down.
I was more saddened by the poverty this time than ever before.
Mother Theresa used to say the West was materially rich but spiritually
poor, whereas the East was materially poor but spiritually rich.
I'm afraid India may be heading into materially moderate to poor
to spiritually poor.
In Memory of Thomas Jost
1950 - 2000
Director of Pragya Vihar School
Servant of the Dharma
Friend to all
This is the inscription on the memorial stone for Thomas that
has been erected at the school.
Thomas died suddenly from illness late last year and will
be sorely missed by all. He liaised with us, was a friend, counsellor,
arbitrator and manager to so many over the years. Most notably
was how his presence was deeply felt amongst the Indian people
who knew him. Tears came to their eyes when they talked of him.
Ram, the local chai whalla couldn't eat for over a day when he
heard the news and numerous were the stories of how he would
He quietly ambled his way into the hearts and lives of so
many, an unimposing gift to us all. There were two memorial services
held at the school in January with many attending including two
of Thomas's brothers.
From all at the BDA and many others may we share the blessing
from having known and worked with this man who lived such a virtuous
2002 REPORT - PRAGYA VIHAR SCHOOL
News from the PV School: Enrolment Process, Students
By Anton Eastick
Last year before leaving for Bodhgaya, where I helped manage
the annual Bodhgaya retreats, Victor asked me if it was possible
to interview 3-4 children from the PV School (PVS) with the idea
of doing an article for the BDA newsletter. Once in Bodhgaya,
Sister Angeli, principal of the school was also enthusiastic
about the idea and we quickly arranged a time and date. On the
chosen day, the children I spoke with, Rakesh, Pankaj, Sweety
and Rekha were all even more excited at the idea of being interviewed.
As they were introduced by Sister Angeli they each jumped up
from their chairs with a broad grin and quickly adopted me as
The two boys, Rakesh and Pankaj, have the surname of Kumar
while the two girls, Sweety and Rekha have the last name of Kumari
which indicates which caste they come from. This is the same
caste but the "i" in Kumari indicates that it is a
girls name. Kumar(i) is apparently one of the lowest of the many
castes in this area.
During the Prajna Vihar School (PVS) enrolment process during
which Sister Angeli chooses who can come to the school from the
many applicants, frequently all she needs to do is look at the
name of the family to have a reasonably accurate picture of the
financial status of the family. In some cases this is not true
but generally it is a good indication.
Martin Aylward and I were at the school on the morning that
the successful applicants for this year were announced and emotions
were running very high as parents dealt with the news, either
favourable or otherwise. It was a very touching experience as
parents pleaded with Sister Angeli to reconsider her decision
but some perspective was placed on the situation later as she
related to us that a small proportion of the parents were indeed
capable of paying for their children to attend another school.
When faced with this performance worthy of Oscar nomination,
it reinforced in us what a difficult job Sister Angeli has with
this enrolment process and how difficult it is for a westerner
to really know what is happening.
Rakesh has been coming to the PVS since he was 4 yrs old and
he is now 11. He has 1 brother and 2 sisters who go to Govt schools.
When asked about what he likes most about the school he replied
that science is good and the cultural program which they perform
at the end of the retreats is also good, but mainly all his friends
come here and he enjoy playing with them the most! It sounded
quite familiar to my experience of school. Maths... English?
Isn't that cutting into the playtime a bit too much? Rakesh's
parents live in Gaya, some distance away and he stays with his
Uncle in Bodhgaya so that he can attend the school. He is the
eldest son and without the support of free education from the
school he would be home with his parents helping to work the
small block of land that they have.
Pankaj has a brother and a sister who come to the PVS school
and one other sister who doesn't go to school yet. His favourite
subject is English but mostly he said it is the teacher's kindness
that makes him want to come to school everyday. This was a sentiment
that was reflected most sincerely by all the children and very
evident in their relationship with Sr Angeli.
Unfortunately Pankaj's father passed away after a fall while
working at the Ladakh monastery in Bodhagya and now his mother
has to support the family by sewing which I was assured she is
very good at!
His mother approached Sister Angeli to allow the children
to come to the school after his father's death and Sr Angeli
readily agreed. Pankaj very much enjoys the discipline of regular
classes and excels at his studies which he spends long hours
on after school hours, unprompted. Sweety has been very aptly
named and like Pankaj, enjoys the discipline (their word) of
school the most, especially the homework! After picking myself
up off the floor upon hearing this somewhat startling revelation,
she assured me that this was indeed true and mathematics was
the best of all.
Sweety was one of the announcers at the cultural program held
for the retreatants this year and excelled in her role. Her parents
sell shawls and blankets during the tourist season at a roadside
stall near the main Bodhgaya Stupa which gives them enough money
to feed her 3 brothers and 2 sisters for the year.
Her previous school, run by Ven. Anurudh a monk at the Thai
Monastery, only went to grade 5. Going to the PVS enables her
to extend her education further where otherwise it may have ended,
depending on what opportunities came up at Govt. schools.
Rekha, 11 years old, has 2 brothers, no sisters and has been
at the school for 7 years. She likes all the subjects at the
school and all the teachers. So easily pleased! Her parents also
sell shawls and blankets etc at a roadside stall in Bodhgaya
and she goes there after school to help out. One of Rekha's brothers
also goes to school at the PVS but one has moved to Ranchi, in
Jarkhand just south of Bihar, to live with his Uncle who has
adopted him. This brother has lived with his Uncle since he was
5 years old, he is now in high school, and doing this has allowed
him to receive the education his parents wanted for him, but
were unable to afford. Rekha's family moved to Bodhgaya so that
they could attend the PVS.
Sister Angeli and Pankaj
over Pragya Vihar School" - Drawing with Poetry by Rakesh
2003 REPORT: DEVELOPMENTS AT THE PRAJNA VIHAR SCHOOL
Most of the committee of the Prajna Vihar school met together
in Bodhgaya in February 2003 to share developments and concerns
about the school.
We expressed our deep appreciation to friends around the world,
especially in Brisbane, Australia, Switzerland, England and the
USA for over the years, sustaining the annual support needed
to maintain the school. It now costs roughly around £23
(A$55) per year to give a full year's education to a child. There
are now around 500 children in the school aged from five to 16
Our wonderful teachers continue to work hard to support the
inner development of the children through study, meditation,
culture and the arts. Yet it is never easy. We have only just
been able to afford the purchase of mats for the children to
sit on on the floor. Until now they have had their lessons on
the cement floor and shared the text books. We are trying to
do everything we can to nourish their education. The school is
generally recognised as the best school in the heart of Bodhgaya
for the quality of education of the children. But we feel we
have a long way to go.
We have the opportunity to lease land just outside Bodhgaya
to build another school. We estimate it will cost around $50,000
to build a new school. We want to go ahead but it is a major
step and exploration for this project is underway. The current
school would then become a vocational training centre to learn
such skills as house-building, clothes-making, plumbing, gardening,
We hope that very soon the school will have access to the
world, via e-mails and internet. One dharma student in the West
kindly gave $800 for the school to buy a computer and go online.
We hope that when this happens it will enable the school to link
up with other schools in the West.
Our major concern is the lake of polluted water surrounding
parts of the school. This happened from new hotels destroying
the ancient irrigation scheme. We have made several appeals to
the authorities to act. Other issues also arise. We were shocked
at the electricity bill that the school had to pay. It looked
like we might have been cheated. Then we checked the records.
The last bill had been sent to the school in 1997. Our telephone
bill suddenly leapt to about $40. The phone is hardly used. Someone
had tapped into our line and used it. We then had to change the
Never forget that the school depends entirely on donations
from ordinary people, who know that every cent goes directly
to support the school and the desperately poor children who attend
it. Please support the children.
2004 Report on the PV School: A Visit and Some Views
My first visit to the Pragya Vihar School this year happened
to coincide with a staff meeting and so I was invited in with
a friend and we sat and waited, listening to the meeting in progress.
I was impressed with the clarity and leadership of the new principal,
Sister Yogita, the atmosphere of cheerful cooperation and the
dedication to the pupils. Later, on the street, I met some of
the students in their distinctive uniforms, all chirping hello,hello
what is your name. Even the smaller ones were able to talk
a little with me in English, now the national language of India
and the key to good jobs and working with tourists, a major source
of income in Bodhgaya. They all said how much they enjoyed going
to school and they even looked like they meant it!
I spoke to several of the Christian nuns who are on staff
at the school as well as Sr Yogita, the new principal. All of
them spoke about the joy it brings them to serve the children
and I was especially struck by the teachers warmth of heart
and love for the children. The job has its challenges though,
ones that are hard to imagine in the West. There is a big drainage
problem; of waste water from hotels which is not reaching the
river. The school, which is built upon raised ground, is surrounded
on all sides by stagnant water, a breeding ground for disease-carrying
mosquitoes. The water was at least 30cm deep while I was there
in the dry season and the sisters told me that in the rainy season
they have to hitch their saris up to their waists and wade through
thigh-deep water to get to work! However it is also worth remembering
how priceless education is in a country with a literacy rate
of around 50%; in Gaya District this drops to single figures
in some villages. It is easy for us to take education for granted;
here the children at the PV school know how lucky and privileged
they are. Everyone I talked to both within and outside the school
agreed that it is the best school in the area.
I spoke to one former pupil, Umesh, who works in one of Bodhgayas
most popular restaurants, Mohammeds. His English was fairly
good, and he has a steady job. I asked him what his peers who
had not been to school were doing for money. He shrugged and
said field-work, carrying bricks. These jobs are
poorly paid, physically demanding and very unreliable sources
It is good to remember that the pupils of the PV school are
low-caste children in a country where caste determines everything.
If a child is born knowing he or she is inferior it is a wonderful
gift to be able to help them to feel self-respect. So, as well
as better earning prospects, education has other benefits too.
Talking with the teachers about this most of them agreed that
present and former pupils of the school had noticeably better
self-esteem and were generally more considerate to others.
The teachers expressed a wish for a little more equipment
for the school, as well as a couple of extra class-rooms so that
each class has a separate room. At present the lower classes
have to share a room, which adds to the challenges for both teachers
and pupils. Also on the wish-list were some desks so that the
pupils were not hunched over when trying to write, and some more
floor mats for the younger students to sit on; they only graduate
to benches in later years! All these things are being prioritised.
New desks have been ordered and slowly the facilities at the
school are getting better.
The whole thing is heartening to see. There is room for growth
and improvement but the school is also having a wonderful impact.
PRAJNA VIHAR SCHOOL
ANNUAL REPORT FOR THE 2004 CALENDAR YEAR
by Sister Bindu Thomas, Principal
Here I give you a brief account of the School. The Prajna
Vihar School was started in the year 1990, with the objective
of educating the students of the less privileged sections of
the society. The School was started in a small shed with 45 children.
Today we are happy to tell you that with your generous contributions,
we have a School building with 13 rooms, in which 500 students
study. We do not limit our education to the bookish knowledge
alone. But we give them value based education, through which
they are helped to live effectively in this world of competition.
When North Bihar faced the worst conditions of flood this year,
we encouraged the students to contribute in kind and cash for
the victims. Thus making them aware of the inter- dependency
on each other and that we all belong to one world at large.
On every Saturday we organize competitions like singing, painting,
dance, speech, quiz etc. to build up their hidden abilities and
potentials. We help and encourage the students to participate
in various competitions sponsored by various organizations, such
as Rotary Club. This enables our students to interact with other
students as well as to come out of their own shells and to have
a wider perspective of life. The teachers are ever willing to
render their service to the students whenever they are in need.
I feel happy and proud to say that there is a cordial and affectionate
relationship between teachers and students.
Celebrations such as Teacher's day, Children's day, Independence
Day, Republic day etc. are celebrated with lots of joy and enthusiasm.
These celebrations foster love and respect between the teachers
and students as well as for the country. This year a Vietnamese
Buddhist nun was generous enough to donate desks and benches
for the students. We also had built two more rooms for the students.
There is a great demand from students and parents for upgrading
the school to Class X, as without this they have to go to Government
school where there is no teaching at all, for their further studies.
We hope this dream of our students will come true one day with
your help and support.
We know that each of you works hard to raise funds for the
maintenance, development and better functioning of the school.
The School family is grateful to each of you for your generous
help and support. May god bless your every efforts and under-takings.
May He be a constant companion in your life's journey. Once again
thanks to each one of you.
THE PRAJNA VIHAR SCHOOL IN 2004 AT A GLANCE
by Sister Bindu Thomas, Principal
Statement of purpose: To educate the less privileged sections
of society, and to foster inter-religious understanding.
School Board of Directors: Venerable.U Nyanienda, Christopher
Ranjit Bhandari, Prama Bhandari, Priye Ranjan Dwye, Sister .Bindu
Number of children: 410 (boys-208, Girls-202)
Number of teachers: 12 (Male- 5, female -7)
Age of youngest student to oldest student: 4 to 15
Names of hamlets where children mostly live: Piparpatti, Mastipur,
Bhagalpur, Amuwa, Taridih
Typical work of parents: agriculture, rickshaw pulling, small
Subjects taught in the school: English, Hindi, Maths, Science,
Social studies, General knowledge., Moral science, Drawing, Hand
Inter-religious appreciation: Prayer meetings on various religious
Colour of the school uniforms: Brown trousers and cream shirts
for boys, Brown Skirts and cream shirts for girls
Cost of the school uniform: 150.00 Rupees [approx A$4.60]
Total salaries for the year: 4,77,800.00 Rupees [approx A$14,532]
Two new rooms: 2,50,000.00 Rupees [approx A$7,603]
Other expenditure: 1,53,805.00 Rupees [approx A$4,678]
Total Expenses: 8,81,605.00 Rupees [approx A$26,813]
Plans and Future Vision for 2005 and beyond:
Practical needs and decisions: Service conditions and guidelines
for the teachers are updated. Mr.P.R.Dwyer is invited as a member
of the management committee, also to be the co-ordinator to inform
overseas fund raisers of any developments in the school The name
of the school remains Prajna Vihar School and not Pragya Vihar
School. The boundary wall has to be raised and another room to
be made for the students. More toilets have to be made for the
students as well as the staff.
Purchases: A big table for the staff, few more desks and benches
for the students, library books, two cupboards.
Future vision in terms of next big steps : Upgrade the school
to High School, Purchase land for the school, Computer education
for students, Technical school for students, Scholarship for
PV SCHOOL 2005 - INTERVIEWS
I set out towards the Pragya Vihar School again this year,
and as happened previously, was greeted by crowds of beaming
kids in their red school uniform, many keen to try out their
few words of English on me and make a bit of contact. Indian
kids are so friendly. And when I forgot the way, one of them
guided me right to the school to make sure I got there. The village
is a maze of paths and shacks and goats.
This time at the school I had longer conversations with four
students and these conversations were enabled by the new principal,
Sister Bindu, who did the translating.
All the four students were in the later classes in the school,
and all had ambitions for further study. Unfortunately the quality
of further education available to them is very poor, but for
the moment is was good to see them enjoying and appreciating
their school time. I was struck by the difference in attitude
between these kids and many in the West who are often either
ambivalent about school or resent having to go.
One of the kids was Kumar from Mastipur, the nearest village.
He is part of a typically large Indian family, with 3 sisters
and 3 brothers. He's the baby of the family. Three of his siblings
are married already. Among educated families in this area the
marriage age tends to be around 17-18: young for us but quite
late by the standards of many other Indian families. Sister Bindu
assures me that it is the education that makes the difference
Kumar's father is the caretaker at a medical college, and
he has worked there for 14 years. His salary is around A$200/month,
which has to support him, Kumar, and three older brothers and
their wives. Kumar's mother died 3 years ago, so they have to
share the domestic responsibilities between themselves. When
I asked if the A$200 per month that was enough for all these
people, he just said that they had to manage as that was all
there was. They have no animals or land to produce food, and
have to buy everything from the market.
Kumar really seemed to appreciate the quality of the teaching
at PV school compared to other schools. He plans to go to the
Government High School to complete the 10 years of schooling,
and he would like to come back one day and teach at the PV school.
Actually a lot of students say this.
Next I met Priti Kumari, a young girl who walks a couple of
kilometres, half and hour, to arrive at school at 8:30am. Before
she leaves home she often needs to clean the whole house and
make breakfast for the family typically chapatti and potato
curry. She often cooks on a rice-husk fire something I
had never heard of. Apparently the rice husks are cheaper than
firewood in deforested Bihar, and available in the market. Sometimes
she prepares the food and sometimes it's done by one of her older
sisters. Priti Kumari is 12 and has she 7 sisters and no brothers.
She is the middle child and when she cooks it is for all of them.
One of the big problems for her family will be the financial
burden of paying the dowry for 7 girls, with no dowry coming
in from any boys. Her father has a business making baskets for
local people and selling baskets he gets from Benares. The baskets
don't get sold to tourists and so he doesn't get any direct benefit
from Westerners with their money. They manage on her father's
income but the seven dowries are a worry.
They all live in a small house with two rooms. Father and
mother in one room, sisters in other room, but they all get on
well and no-one snores! They don't have any land or animals,
just the house, so they are totally dependent on their father's
business to buy what they need.
One good thing about the house is that there is a hand-pump
outside, so there is no problem with carrying water long distances.
The water in the area isn't always clean though.
This is Priti Kumari's last year at the PV School. She is
in Class 8 and next year she will go to the Government High School.
She doesn't want to leave PV School. She would also like to come
back one day and teach - Science, her favourite subject.
The third student I talked to was Afroz, from the Bodhgaya
bazaar area. He lives in a larger house with 5 rooms , his parents,
three sisters and two of his three brothers.
What he likes best is the discipline (!) at the PV school. Many
kids say this and it is often surprising for Westerners. I think
they like the discipline because they really want to learn and
find it frustrating to be in undisciplined classes. Afroz is
pretty disciplined himself, according to Sister Bindu. She said
that students are sent back home if they're late but Afroz is
never late. He likes maths, wants to go to the Government High
School then onto college for the final 2 years, then maybe a
His real passion though is art. He won a local art competition,
he can draw cartoons and portraits and Sister Bindu had the view
that he really was talented. Afroz wants to develop his artistic
skills as well as the more formal academic study. And he is already
thinking how he could make a living from art: commission paintings,
wall painting, pictures for tourists, maybe of Bodhgaya landmarks
and monasteries, portraits, pictures of the Dalai Lama. His mother
says that he needs to do all the formal schooling first before
going to Art School. Sounds like what a Western parent might
say. She said that when his formal schooling is finished, he
might be able to go to Art School in Calcutta. That's his dream.
The last student I talked to was Anku Kumari. She comes from
a village about three kilometres away and often comes to school
with the nuns in a rickshaw. She has seven in her family: her
parents, herself, the eldest, two sisters a brother and an aunt.
She does the cleaning and sometimes the cooking. She's 11. It's
hard to imagine many Western 11-year-olds with that level of
responsibility. When pressed, she said that she liked cooking,
and reluctantly admitted that she cooks well.. They use firewood
and plug-in electric stove (but frequent power outages make that
not very reliable). She said that that morning, before coming
to school, she cleaned the house totally and cooked breakfast
for everyone in the family chapatti and vegetables. After
school she'll eat, study, play a bit with her friends. I asked
her what games they play, wondering if children's games were
similar, and found that they play Hide and Seek! Also a game
catching stones on the back of the hand, and another one in groups
where one group splits off and tries not to be caught by the
other group. Some things sound similar the world over.
All of Anku's friends go to school, and her and her 2 sisters
and one friend come to PV school. She said that if she didn't
come to school she would be at home doing housework. She thinks
she is likely to get married around 18 - quite old for some parts
of India: the education makes the difference. She'd like to go
to the Government High School after finishing at PV school, and
go on to teach Science. (Another one wanting to be a teacher).
I talked further with Sister Bindu. She comes from Kerala
in the South of India, she joined the Congregation of (Christian)
Nuns in 1989 in Varanasi, and then took full l ordination 1994.
Then she did a BEd in Jamshedphur and started teaching. Before
the PV school, she was teaching in Chattisgarh State in an English
medium school (many schools in India teach in English rather
than the pupils native tongues) She said she really loves teaching.
She particularly likes the PV School because it's just for
the poor and gives free education for those who can't afford
it elsewhere. She doesn't know how long she'll be able to stay
because her Order can simply call her away and assign her other
Apart from the principal role she teaches English, reading
and writing, and she says she likes all of them. I commented
on how the kids here seem to enjoy going to school and that's
often not the case in the West. Sister Bindu said they know that
school is their opportunity to make something of their life and
so they're motivated.
She would like to have classes up to Class 10 many pupils
can't go on because they can't pay fees for better schools and
in the Government school she said there is no real teaching.
She said in the Government School the teachers often just come
to collect their salary and don't teach at all.
She said there is great demand from parents for classes up
to Class 10, but that it's just not possible at the moment as
they have no space, no classrooms. There are 475 students already.
And looking at the building myself, I found it hard to believe
you could fit so many in
Sister Bindu talked about the problem of waste water overflow
from the bigger hotels which is likely to get worse as tourist
numbers increase. There are no laws or regulations governing
such things and it's a problem because the dirty water can lie
around for months and turn into a mosquito breeding ground. There
had been a debate about whether to move the school because of
this but in the end, mainly due to the cost of moving and building
a new school, the decision was made to stay put.
There has been some expansion of the school in the last year:
two more classrooms have been built and they are now used as
nursery classes for 5-year olds. They are teaching them reading
and writing and numbers.
She said there were only two sisters available from her congregation
for and it was hard to find trained teachers, in part because
qualified teachers need to be paid more. Most of the teachers
there are untrained so they don't have good teaching skills.
Many of them have a BA but not a BEd or other teacher training.
She said some were good but others not so good. She gives professional
development seminars on teaching methods, but she doesn't think
it is enough.
Sister Bindu said that one of the challenges was to try to stop
the students going out begging. She said she understands it is
very tempting for the kids with so many rich tourists around.
She also said that there was no religious education in the
school, and so far no conflict between the Christianity of the
nuns and the local Hinduism . She said the locals genuinely appreciate
what the nuns are doing for the area.
She went on to say her greatest joy is knowing that the school
is doing something for the most under-privileged children. Some
of the old students come back to visit and they are often doing
something that they wouldn't have been able to do without having
gone to the PV School: like further studies or even university
or in business. One of then went to Bombay and now works in a
shipyard. She said that if it hadn't been for the school they
would more likely be at home or in the fields or begging.
Of the many students who had aspiration to teach, she thought
that in general it was not so realistic, but good to see that
teachers were being admired and that students wanted to emulate
She said that many girls don't continue studies after going
to the PV School. They just stay at home until they get married.
Even so, their education still brings many benefits. They have
a taste for education and are likely to make sure their own children
get educated, they know how to manage money better, have better
hygiene and understand the importance of cleanliness, they don't
get cheated in the market because they can read. They also tend
to be more disciplined.
Sister Bindu would like to expand the school to teach up to
Class 10 and find good teachers. Both these things need more
money. She hopes some teachers will "be charitable"
and accept a lower salary, but this is not something to count
on. Her dream is to have more children coming to the school and
to make a real difference to the community.
Walking back from the school I thought of all the things in
the West we take for granted.
Prajna Vihar School 2005-6
von der Heyde
At a glance: 530 students enrolled
(2006) ; ages 4-15; up to Class VIII (new Class IX starting 15
July 2006); priority given to students from very poor families
who would not otherwise receive an education; Hindu, Christian
and Muslim teachers; Buddhist, Christian and Hindu members on
the Board of Directors, funding predominantly from people in
the Insight Meditation and Buddhist communities; 12 teachers;
subjects taught: English, Hindi, Maths, Science, Social Studies,
General Knowledge, Ethics, Drawing, Craft, Dance.
The school is going well and there have been a few new developments.
The school buildings are slowly being expanded: in addition to
the two new classrooms that were built in 2004-5, the decision
was made in January this year (2006) to build another extra classroom
on the first floor. This will cost around A$5900 and address
the problem of having two classes taught at different ends of
the one room.
Teachers at the PV School have in the past been paid less
than teachers at other schools in the area and we have fortunately
been in a position to increase the salaries. The new rates are
3000 rupees per month for teachers (A$88) with a two month bonus
(A$176) per year, and 5000 rupees per month (A$147) for the principal,
also with a two month bonus per year.
After finding the best way to get through the various bureaucratic
hurdles to do with appropriate registration of the school as
a legal entity, a process which took many years, we were finally
in a position earlier this year (2006) the apply to regularly
transfer funds from overseas directly to one of the school accounts.
This is known as the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act)
application. We are hoping that this will be approved in the
next few months. This would make the accounting arrangements
with the school much more straightforward.
There was a report recently on some of the old students who
were in the first intakes of the school in the early 1990s. For
poor and generally low caste kids, some of them have done very
well. One is doing further study to prepare for medical school
entry, two are studying Chinese at the Shanti Niketan University
in Kolkata, one trained in electronics and works in that area
in Chennai (Madras), one got qualifications in marine engineering,
one is studying Japanese at the Indira Gandhi Open University
and others have jobs in hotels. It is hard to imagine that kids
would be in these sorts of positions if it were not for the PV
School. In general while many of the boys continue their education,
it is unfortunately not so common for the girls.
There is still the drainage problem next to the school - this
has been a problem for years - and at times the school looks
from some angles like it is in the middle of a lake. There has
been a commitment from the head of the local government body
(the Gaya District Commissioner, who came and inspected the area)
to have the problem fixed and while we're not holding our breath,
it could well happen.
At the beginning of the year there were discussions between
the principal and teachers as to how many new students to take
in. There were lots of applications and this is partly because
there are a many poor people trying to get their kids into a
school and partly because the school has a good reputation. In
the end the teachers and principal decided to take in considerably
more than they had before. This has resulted in very large class
sizes which have proved a little difficult. Next year the numbers
taken in may not be so high.
There is room for improvement in the facilities and support
for the teachers. Some of the items on the teachers' wish-list
in January this year were:
(a) a teacher training program at least once a year
(b) teaching aids (maps, charts of animals, birds, flowers)
(c) more limits on the number of students per class
(d) a science lab, and
(e) being able to offer classes up to Class X (currently Class
VIII is the highest)
From the 15th of July this year (2006) there will be for the
first time a Class IX. This was partly a response to requests
(or pestering in the words of the Principal) from Class VIII
students, partly a wish from the teachers and it was made possible
because we had the funds.
Teachers also wanted the students to have a more substantial
playground. We're hoping this will happen by the end of the year.
In the past teachers had hoped to arrange a study tour for
some of the senior student and in February this year, this finally
Thirteen students aged around 14 years old went with the Principal,
Sister Bindu and three other teachers to Kolkata (Calcutta) on
short study tour. Kolkata is about 500 kilometres away. The trip
was enabled by one particular donation. Even though Bodhgaya
is not far from the Gaya railway station, it was the first time
many of the students had been on a train. After the trip they
wrote about their experience, and here is the translation.
We consider ourselves very lucky to get an opportunity to
visit Kolkata. We went from Gaya on 25th February by the Poorva
Express. We reached the Howrah station in Kolkata in the evening
and went to the Bengal Buddhist temple by taxi. There we were
given rooms to stay. After having our dinner at a restaurant
we went off to sleep. Next day after breakfast sister took us
to the zoo. We were amazed to see all the different animals,
and birds and snakes. We saw most of them for the first time.
We saw snakes which were poisonous and snakes which were not
poisonous, big birds which could fly, and even animals which
could swallow a human being. The world is such a marvellous place!
In front of the giraffes we felt ourselves very small. We were
very happy to meet our ancestors, monkeys. Even though we didn't
want to leave, we had to, because we were going to visit the
Science City in the afternoon.
We got inside the Science City by a lift, and in that you
could get an all round view of the whole place. First we went
to the space theatre, where we heard about the seasons, and how
much they effect our lives. Then we went into a mirror maze where
we saw ourselves in different shapes. In some glasses we saw
ourselves without heads and in some without a body. The different
mirrors are made of concave and convex lenses. It was wonderful.
From there we went to a place called Evolution Park. It
had animals of the past like dinosaurs and huge reptiles and
showed the life style of early man, how he walked, ate and lived
amongst the wild animals.
After that we went for a boat ride on the River Hooghly.
The boat had a special provision for orchestra. From the river
the famous Howrah Bridge looked beautiful, adorned with lights.
The next day we went to see Queen Victoria's memorial by metro.
It was the first time we had been on the metro. The memorial
is a historical place, and we were told of the British rule in
India. We had many photographs taken in the garden. From there
we went shopping. Due to lack of money we purchased only few
things but we enjoyed looking at the shops and the crowd. Though
the city is thickly populated, the traffic rules and other rules
are well maintained.
The roads over there are very clean and the people are
educated. The tour was a learning and enriching experience for
us. Bodhipala Bhante was a great help for us. He arranged everything
for us to make our stay and tour comfortable. We are grateful
to Sr.Bindu and all those who have arranged and made this trip
possible for us.