School pupils reach out to the ‘untouchables’

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STUDENTS from the High School of Glasgow travelled to India to work with some of the country’s most marginalised communities.

A total of 16 pupils and two teachers made the epic journey, clocking up over four thousand miles en-route.

Among them were Bearsden pair Hannah Jolly and Johanna Norris, both at the forefront of the charitable work.

The group made their way to Lucknow, in the northern region of Uttar Pradesh, as part of the School’s Community Service Project.

They spent 10 days in the area where they worked with the Dalit people — one of India’s ‘untouchable’ social classes.

With their lowly status, the Dalit people are often trapped in bonded labour, forced to do degrading jobs.

What’s more is they are routinely beaten and abused by those from higher castes.

Nevertheless, the High School of Glasgow pupils met with Dalit families, taught in their schools and experienced life among the poorest and mistreated people in India.

The pupils volunteered in the schools by leading a variety of lessons in subjects including English, sports, art, maths and music.

Before leaving Scotland, the High School raised funds to provide basic resources for the Indian schools.

The children come from extremely poor backgrounds and most of them don’t even own a pencil.

As part of their trip the pupils visited sustainable community projects, such as a women’s group and a tailoring institute.

This enabled them to see first-hand how grass-roots projects make a real difference in people’s lives.

In general, education for Dalit children is seldom found in the area - however, there are numerous charities working to introduce long-term schooling.

Children can sometimes receive sponsorship, enabling them to attend school with their education, healthcare and clothing paid for by a sponsor.

The aim of these schools is to give children an education from primary level, then on into secondary level.

Children receive lessons in English, as this is seen as the language of business in India.

The leaders of Dalit communities firmly believe that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty that Dalits find themselves living in.

They believe that if children are literate and numerate then they have access to good jobs that will take them and their families out of poverty.