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On days like today, when a chronic illness weakens her mother, Sangita must stay home to help with chores and look after her younger sister. The 11-year-old’s school attendance suffers. When she does make it to class, Sangita struggles with schoolwork.
Her parents are part of the approximately 25% of India’s population who are illiterate. Sangita’s mom and dad know only how to sign their names. Sangita, a first-generation learner, cannot rely on them for help with homework.
Many other obstacles get in the way of Sangita’s education:
Through sponsorship, however, Sangita is getting the extra help she needs to improve her grades. One of the benefits children receive includes group tutoring at their community center. In Kolkata, India, our tutoring program focuses on providing support in English, language arts, math and science. In addition to the formal tutoring program, all sponsored children and youth have access to learning and school-support resources, including textbooks, computers and safe places to read, study and complete homework. Trained staff and volunteers also carry out various activities to promote literacy, numeracy and cultural awareness for children.
She now enjoys studying and is learning a lot in her tutoring sessions. “My handwriting used to be poor but now that has improved a lot too. I can even recite rhymes,” Sangita giggles as she starts reciting one.
Daimanti, Sangita’s mother, has noticed a significant change in her daughter after Sangita become sponsored. “We have two young children and suffer from serious financial problems,” she explains. “But after Sangita qualified for a sponsorship, we have received help. We no longer have to spend money on her textbooks or notebooks. She even gets her schoolbag through sponsorship.”
But what makes Daimanti happiest is the keen interest the girl is showing toward her education. “Previously, Sangita couldn’t be woken up early in the morning to go to school but now she wakes up on her own. Even in the evening I no longer have to remind her to study,” she says. “Sangita is a changed child, and I can’t thank her sponsor enough!”
Although Sangita must still miss school on the days her mother is sick, Sangita’s grades remain high. She continues to score A’s and even A-pluses after just one year of attending the group tutoring classes.
Sunanda Chatterjee, a social worker at Sangita’s community center, says the girl has also improved her social and communication skills. “When she first came in, Sangita remained withdrawn. She wouldn’t mingle with others,” he explains. “But now she has made friends. She’s also learning teamwork and is showing a spark of leadership, too. And she is no longer shy to ask if she doesn’t understand a new lesson.”
Chatterjee’s message to Sangita is to have faith in the program and keep attending classes regularly: “If she has shown this much progress in one year, imagine how far she’ll go!”