In his first year as an NCEP scholar in 2009, Sudeep soared. He enjoyed coming to school, and was always eager to show NCEP team members what he had learned when they came to visit.
Last year, however, something changed. His attendance began to drop, his marks suffered, and his enthusiasm for school was replaced with an enthusiasm for skipping it. When NCEP visited his school shortly after he wrote his Class 2 final exams, we were distressed to learn that he had missed two of them.
The message was always the same from his very supportive teachers: that Sudeep is a very intelligent and creative boy, but needs guidance. If he doesn’t understand class material, instead of asking for help, he simply stops coming. And the more he falls behind, the less he wants to come to school. Beyond that, a day at school for Sudeep often meant a day without lunch. It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach.
Along with his class teachers, we visited Sudeep’s mother in March at the cramped restaurant where she works 12-14 hour days hand-washing dishes. It was a great source of pride for her that Sudeep was in school – she had never had the opportunity herself – and she was very upset to learn that he had been missing so many classes. Though she can’t help Sudeep with his homework, she resolved to make time to walk with him to school each day. We also matched Sudeep with a NCEP Field Volunteer who could meet with him regularly and act as a positive role model; arranged after-school tutoring to help him catch up on the subjects where he lacks a strong foundation; and set up a lunch program to ensure that he will have a healthy lunch every day he comes to school.
This bright young man is proving that all he needed was a second chance and a broader support network. As he promised, Sudeep visited his school the next day and applied to take the exams he missed. He wrote them a week later, and passed, which allowed him to advance to Class 3. Since then, his attendance, marks, and attitude in school have improved dramatically. While he still needs to improve in submitting his homework on time, he is asking more questions in class, and is making new friends. Perhaps most encouraging of all, he seems happy again.
Sudeep’s mother spends up to 14 hours a day washing dishes here, crouched on the wicker stool behind her.
Looking sharp, Sudeep. The young man shows off his new Class 3 Shanti Nikunja School uniform, along with fellow NCEP Scholars Mina and Reshma.
Sudeep’s mother often sits with him while he does his homework.
Sudeep proudly displays his work…
…making his mother proud, too.