The Return to a New Normal

Children from one of the poorest villages around Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve look on in hope that there will be enough education packets to go around.
Young Children in Bandhavgarh wondering if there will be enough for them

After almost 20 months of closure, the phased return of children into Indian schools, with new COVID protocols in place, is almost complete. We’re still awaiting authorisation and capacity to resume the pop-up nature schools in the rural villages without access to schools but that is in hand. Thanks to your generosity over the last few months we are now in a position to help up to 300 children with education packs containing essential writing materials so they can finally return access learning.

An Almost Impossible Choice

We are now faced with the near impossible task of choosing which 300 children to help first. Many of the poorest children had no access to remote learning during the schools’ lockdown so we want to prioritise getting them to school urgently. Many families suffered financial hardship during the pandemic due to combined factors including: lack of paid work, loss of crops due to animal raids or destruction; loss of livestock; or a combination of all three. For some children the help will be too late, they are 14 years old already and no longer qualify for free state driven education; if their parents can’t afford to pay then they will never complete their education. All around India, charities are concerned about this “lost generation” of young adults. The impact on their lives, their families and the wildlife habitat will surely be felt for many years to come.

Some villages have suffered more than others with monkeys entering the fields before the harvest of fruit and vegetables to feast on the spoils. The same villages lose the new shoots of their crops to grazing herbivores and when the crops are established, many have been trampled and crushed overnight by rampaging wild elephants. If the loss of crops to eat or sell wasn’t hard enough, some farmers have lost their livestock to habitual predators such as wild tigers and leopards too. The compensation from the forest department hasn’t been the quickest to arrive or in many cases has been insufficient to cover the losses which fuels the problem and leads to unrest. Desperate villagers enter the forest and send their children in to gather food for their families to eat or to sell. As they go deeper into wildlife habitat, they risk human-wildlife conflict, even their own lives and those of their children in the process.  

The Fortunate Few

Although we can’t help the “lost generation” at this stage, we can help to prevent further youngsters falling into the same trap by ensuring that the education packs we distribute will benefit children in three key age groups:

  • Early learners – Aged 4 – 7 years
  • Junior learners – Aged 8 – 11 years
  • Older learners – Aged 11 – 14 years

We will aim to split the education packs with around one third for each age group and with around 175 packs overall distributed in the hardest hit villages with roughly 125 set aside for the pop-up schools if we receive the news that these can recommence. In the absence of authorisation, we will look to distribute all education packs in the hardest hit villages, and will try to raise further funds so that we can help the pop-up schools next time. (https://goto.gg/32565).

Making a Difference

Around 300 children who haven’t had access to remote learning due to poverty, no electricity and lack of technology throughout the schools’ lockdown will soon have the opportunity to start or resume their education, thanks to your generosity. In our next newsletter, we will share some of the images of the smiling children’s faces who you have helped. In the meantime, if you are able to help us help more children to have an education and become tiger protectors rather than foragers, please consider a new monthly donation as part of your new year’s resolutions. (https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/education-saves-tigers/?show=recurring).

We will continue to work hard with our Indian based education partner, GTCS, to try to restart the pop-up schools in the most remote villages as soon as the latest COVID restrictions and funding allow. Thankfully, due to your amazing support and donations we will be able to provide education packs to support the learning of at least 300 children with education packs, this time. Sadly, there will be thousands of other children also needing basic writing materials and books who we won’t be able to help until we raise more funds. Thus, we anticipate that the impact of lost schooling together with the economic effects of COVID19 will be felt by the forest and its wild tigers for many years to come.

Long Term Impact – Help is Still Needed

Our experience has shown us over the last 11 years, that without education, the prospects for the poorest children will be limited to picking forest products: tendu leaves, mahua flowers, amla fruit, etc., to sell; and to clearing forest habitat to create land for crops (https://tigers4ever.org/education/).The children from the poorest families had no access to online learning facilities, as they live simple lives without electricity or access to technology.

Throughout the pandemic, your support for our work has been amazing. We definitely couldn’t have kept wild tigers safe without it. Now, as the latest wave of infection brings further challenges, India’s people are trying to rebuild their former lives. We hope that we can help to provide a brighter future for some of Bandhavgarh’s poorest children. If you want to support the education of the poorest rural children in Bandhavgarh, you can make a huge difference by starting a new monthly recurring donation from just £5 (US$8) per month, which will ensure that we can offer educational resources for at least 15 children in a year: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/education-saves-tigers/?show=recurring.

In Bandhavgarh, many people have faced the biggest challenges of their lives with no work and the schools having been closed since 25 March 2020. For the thousands of young children with no access to schooling at all, there is the question as to whether they will ever return to education. These children without computers or mobile phones, without electricity in their homes, are the children which Tigers4Ever has always tried to help. By giving these children books and basic writing materials we give them hope, we give them a chance to go to school which otherwise they may not have.

If We Could Make a Difference We Would

We want to ensure that the poorest children get a chance to complete their education too. We still hope to do more in the future, but in the meantime, we need your help to provide education packs to enable children to return to the state schools right now. You can help to make that happen with every donation of £25 (US$40) we can send 5 children to school https://goto.gg/32565.

Remember: when we provide education packs for children living with tigers we reduce future habitat destruction risks AND provide opportunities to become future tiger protectors. I would like to thank you for your generosity and support on behalf of the wild tigers, which we are keeping safe; on behalf of the children who we have previously helped to get an education (and their families who will have food because of this help); and on behalf of the wider tiger community in Bandhavgarh, which benefits from providing books and writing equipment for inclusion in the education packs which we distribute. We’d like to wish you all a happy and healthy New Year. Stay Safe.

Two young Royal Bengal Tiger cubs playing in a nala by the stream. Young tiger cubs need to learn too if they are to survive in the jungles of India
Tiger Cubs need to Learn Too

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