|projects & activities
Workshop for Principals and Senior Faculty on ‘Education in the New Nepal’ Led By Sister Cyril of Loreto School, Sealdah
In November 2007 the South Asia Children's Fund organized and hosted a two-day workshop in Kathmandu entitled ‘Education in the New Nepal’ for principals and senior faculty designed to improve the quality of education for children and youth of Nepal. The workshop was led by Sister M.J. Cyril, Principal of Loreto Day School, Sealdah in Kolkata. Sister Cyril is one of Asia’s most innovative educators, and is the recipient of India’s highest civilian award, the Padma Shree, in recognition of her many years of service to the people of West Bengal.
Founded in 1857, Loreto School Sealdah is Kolkata’s leading independent school for girls. However, unlike most schools for the elite, under the dynamic leadership of Sister Cyril Loreto School Sealdah has taken up the challenge of providing quality education for many of Kolkata’s poorest and youngest citizens. Among the 1400 students attending Loreto School are 700 children (know and ‘Rainbows’) from nearby slums who receive comprehensive support, including all costs associated with their tuition, school meals, uniforms, medical costs, support for rent when eviction is threatened, counselling, and extra tutoring as required.
Loreto School Sealdah makes no distinction between children of Kolkata’s elite, and the children of slum dwellers. Caste distinction of any form is not tolerated on the school compound. In addition, Loreto School Sealdah champions the rights of all girls and young women as equal citizens under the laws of India, and promotes their full participation in society.
Rainbow: An Experiment in Education
In the tradition of the great Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, Sister Cyril has taken up the challenge of providing high-quality instruction for girls and young women from the margins of Indian society. In turn, these same children make Loreto Sealdah a more compelling and relevant institution for its fee-paying students. The Rainbow Programme is not an add-on to Loreto Sealdah’s normal responsibilities, but instead serves as the physical and spiritual centre of the school.
According to Loreto Sealdah’s own reports, the Rainbow Programme “has involved opening up the school to underprivileged youngsters from slum areas and pavements, to produce a healthy mix of children from all social, financial and religious backgrounds. The Rainbow children, in their turn, along with those who pay fees, are involved in reaching out to others even less privileged than themselves through a broad spectrum of services, touching as many as possible. In this way Loreto Sealdah seeks to become a resource centre for the community, creating in the process dynamic people with the values of giving, sharing and extended love--a vibrant, living instrument for human change.”
The Rainbow Programme provides a practical model for independent schools the world over, showing how students from all walks of life can learn from each other. The Rainbow Programme provides hope and opportunity for hundreds of children whom others have written off. Rainbow’s approach is cost effective, and can be repeated in any city by following clear principles and guidelines laid down by Loreto’s teachers. The Rainbow Programme makes use of existing facilities, rather than setting up a parallel structure. The Rainbow Programme incorporates the expertise of professional teachers as well as the idealism and energy of volunteers. The Rainbow Programme recognizes that young people can serve as tutors, mentors and friends for disadvantaged children. Visitors to the Rainbow Programme regularly see students from countries as distant as Holland and Australia acting in the capacity of basketball coaches and language instructors. It’s life-affirming for all of Loreto’s volunteers to realize that they can make a profound difference in the lives of poor girls and boys.
As a result of an initiative designed by Peter Dalglish, the Rainbow Programme is now serving as the point of entry for dozens of children of Kolkata’s sex workers, providing these girls and boys with a safe and stimulating environment, and with the opportunity to be enrolled in a nearby corporation school with which Loreto Sealdah has been associated for many years. Specifically, children of sex workers who attend the Rainbow Programme receive the following benefits:
The November 2008 workshop in Kathmandu led by Sister Cyril was opened by Father Lawrence Maniyar, the Regional Supervisor for the Nepal Jesuit Society. Among the attendees were principals and senior faculty from 14 Catholic and Buddhist schools in Nepal. At the end of her visit to Nepal, Sister Cyril gave a public lecture at the Shangri La Hotel in Kathmandu.