Saheli is a small Swiss Verein, working out of Basle. Saheli is active in India in the state of Gujarat. As part of its enabling programmes, Saheli sponsors education of socially disadvantaged children. These children come from tribes, scheduled castes and remote communities.
Area of action
The hilly Dharampur region of Gujarat state is home to a large population of tribal people. Dispossessed of their land, tribal people earn money by migrant work. It is not uncommon that children of these families begin manual labour when very young.
Poor health due to bad diet, lack of medical care, under-developed social skills, and no standing in society, are all against these children. Getting to school is difficult because they live remotely.
Sending these children to a boarding school ensures food, lodging, structure and security. With a sound basic education, the future holds better opportunity. The parents want their children to have a chance, even though it means partial separation.
Tribal children sponsored by Saheli
Saheli works with one school in the town of Valsad. St Joseph’s school was founded in 1936, and is run by the Franciscan Hospitaller Order of Sisters. Students are of mixed faith and are taught the principles of respect for the individual.
Children in India start school aged 3 (Junior Kindergarten) and final school-leaving exams are taken at age 18. St. Joseph’s has 2,500 students, with 65 students per class. Classes are taught in English.
With a history of boarding students in the past, the Principal and her staff have boarders again. The tribal students that board at St. Joseph’s are all supported by Saheli.
The past years
The Saheli tribal children at St. Joseph’s are now robust and healthy. A routine is well- established: parents visit their children once a month on “visiting Sunday”. Their sleeping room is nicely decorated; they have their own bedding and cooking utensils and their carer (a tribal mother) lives with them and does cooking, laundry and cleaning.
Good grades are not a high priority, although the children are encouraged to make their best efforts.