Hi everyone, I'm an online editor with the Globe and I'll be moderating this chat today. Stephanie will be joining us shortly, but in the meantime feel free to submit your questions.
We've also had many people asking how you can help Sister Sudha and the school. If you're interested in helping, please email Stephanie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and she'll provide more information.
We'll be starting shortly.
by Stuart Thompson 6/11/2012 2:20:40 PM
We're starting in just a few minutes, which is just enough time to watch this interview with Sister Sudha, part of series of videos we've produced for Breaking Caste: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/breaking-caste/video-activist-dreams-of-turning-indias-poorest-girls-into-agents-of-change/article4243738/
by Stuart Thompson 6/11/2012 2:27:46 PM
Okay so we're ready to start. Stephanie's joining us from the Globe's bureau in Delhi today and she'll be taking your questions and comments. We've also received many questions for Sister Sudha over the weekend, and Stephanie will be posting her answers as well.
Thanks for joining us today Stephanie.
by Stuart Thompson 6/11/2012 2:32:02 PM
Thanks, Stuart, and thanks everyone for joining us. We've had lots of great questions so far, and I've been able to connect with Sudha to get her answers as well, which I'll be passing along.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:33:00 PM
We were hoping she could live chat with us too but her internet speed doesn't allow it.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:33:17 PM
Plus she's got all the girls from Prerna 2 visiting at Prerna 1 today, in a special arts camp, so with 225 teenage girls under her roof her hands are rather full.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:33:50 PM
So I'll just plunge into this pile of questions.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:34:00 PM
Thanks Madeleine. Here's what Sudha has to say: We have visiting days so their parents come and spend as much time as they want to – we just had one last Saturday and 450 people were here. The parents spent good time with them. They brought cooked food for them. They had a good time – so that way we make sure they meet their parents and relations occasionally at least once every one and a half months. That is important. We also give them some holidays – twice a year – then if there is a wedding in the family or if someone died in the family we give them 2 days holidays, like that. We very much believe that they should keep close touch with their families because they cannot be out of it.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:35:35 PM
I can add to that, having accompanied some of the girls when they went home last year for the Dushera festival, that they still have very close ties to their families and villages. It was lovely to see the homecomings.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:36:20 PM
Great question, Blaine, and one that lots of readers have posted in one form or another.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:37:12 PM
In fact, let me take another on the same topic.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:37:18 PM
So, here's what Sudha has to say: There are a few schools of this type for Dalit boys. In my centers in the village I have also boys – because others were saying to me, 'When you educate girls you will have educated girls but when they go to marry they will have only illiterate boys.' So I educate some boys but not in a hostel set up. I have seen more misery of girls because they are not educated so they are my focus.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:37:58 PM
And I'll add that Sudha's residential school model grew very particularly out of her experience living in a Mushahar community for 26 years, when she saw the many barriers to girls' education, particularly early marriage (ie most girls were married at 12 or 13.) Many of the same institutional barriers to education exist for boys too - such as discrimination by teachers - but there's a whole additional set of challenges for girls which makes them Sudha's focus.
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:39:09 PM
Thanks, Rebecca. Sudha's experiment at Prerna is only six years old so we don't have an answer to that yet. We're going to keep watching though. Sudha does have one former student, named Lal Mathi, who graduated and has become a teacher and a huge role model in Mushahar communities - you can read her story here ....
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:40:02 PM
and I know Sudha hopes that the girls at Prerna will do as well as Lal Mathi has
by Stephanie Nolen 6/11/2012 2:41:01 PM