17 October; Armavathy Lower Primary School

Posted: 22 October 2017

Armavathy is in one of the poorest areas of Kochi and yet as soon as you step foot into its primary school you know that you are in a very special place. 

      Poverty is an acute problem in India. It is an inescapable fact that greets you everywhere you go. It is the way it is, the way it has always been and, according to some, the way it will always be. Some will say that India is this way because it is still shackled to a colonial bureaucracy and it suits politicians and officials to remain within its corruption and red-tape.  

     There are many who will tell you that they believe India is a kleptocracy, governed for seventy years by those who would maintain, and add to, the oppressive laws imposed by the British, in order to satisfy their own greed and exploit the natural resources at the expense of the poor. In ‘The Hindu’ it was reported that a huge majority of the people, and in particular the youth, are of the opinion that the rules and administrative systems, established by years of British rule and which were there to keep the country in order and in a state of slavery, are still there and that the laws enacted since partition are of the same kind, there only to strengthen this slavery and decrease individual freedom. As it was put to me in one conversation, ‘The police are here only for the poor. They don’t touch the rich and influential.’

     The World Bank recently stated that by any measure of human development India has the poorest indicators of social growth compared to most other developing countries and yet, in the same report, it says that it has the fastest growing economy anywhere in the world, a statement which is both true yet difficult to believe. Some say that the India’s failures to deal with these problems lie in its past with its history of invasion and dominance by other nations. Some lay the blame at the feet of religion  and culture, citing its caste system as fatalistic while some even say the climate is to blame as it has sapped the will of the people, leaving them no energy for anything other than acceptance. 

     Within all of this uncertainty and corruption you find places like Armavathy Lower Primary School where, for at least a few hours, children can find a haven from the dangers of the street and relax and just be children. 

     Armavathy caters for both boys and girls of all abilities and handicaps. I worked with a class of eleven year olds whose enthusiasm to learn and share was intoxicating. You have to ask yourself what these young people could achieve if given any of the advantages we have in the west instead of it being squandered by generations who fail to appreciate the value of what they have.

     Singing a few songs will not make things better for these children but when you look at the joy on the face of someone like Sandrima, a young girl whose body has been ravaged and twisted by cerebral palsy or you listen very closely and hear Joseph, so shy and backward and afraid that he can’t even look at his classmates, quietly singing to himself, you hope and pray that as India emerges as a leading economic power that somewhere within that growth there will be politicians and officials who will fight to put an end to this kind of poverty.


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