Pencil Box

INDIA

I met Ganeshan while I was teaching in Michael Giri school (Mayalam school) in Marayoor, South India. I noticed him because he was much taller and looked older than the other pupils. He was 10 then but he was in a class with 6 year-olds, standing out. He was more mature and clearly had more knowledge. I was intrigued and asked Mother Superior why he was here, boarding in primary school.

Apparently his mum got ill with a “mental” illness the nun whispered.  He had “no father”. His brother and him were left with some relatives who couldn´t take care of them. So they asked the school to take him in.

The school had funded his education for that year with the grant they get  and as he missed a few years he had then to start from the beginning and work his way up, according to the law of education. The nuns were worried because they didn´t know if they could keep him the next year.

The children were keen to learn, some stayed in the school because they were orphans or their family couldn´t take care of them. Every child had some daily chores like gardening or cooking tasks. Life was simple, the meals were mainly  rice with some pickles, the possessions of the children: a slate, some chalk and a pencil box.

The school had occasional volunteer teachers, mostly from abroad. Most of them were very young and inexperienced as I had been myself a decade ago.

This is where it all starts.