Following a busy day with Sister Rose at St Mathias Primary School the next day we visited the Secondary School where Sister Rose has her office and teaches.
At the side of the school just behind Sister Rose’s office there is a nursery room for 20 children. That is where we started our day! The children in the Nursery are 3 years old and they were very keen to play with us. We had given Sister Rose some chocolates to give out as a treat at a suitable time. However Sister Rose decided the nursery children should have their treat that morning! As soon as the children saw the chocolate they got very excited and as it was very hot they soon got very messy.
The nursery children spend a lot of time outside and the outside area is shaded by a huge mango tree. Whilst we were there the teacher was sweeping the leaves and dust up trying to keep everywhere neat and tidy. The children helped when they were reminded by putting all the litter in the bin.
Brumas had a lot of fun playing with the children. They do not have a lot of toys and sometimes being only 3 years old they found it hard to share! Mrs MacLauchlan played throwing and catching with the balls.
The staff were also proud to sing the rhyme One, two buckle my shoe and some of the children were joining in and were very excited when we joined in. We then introduced them to Ring- a Ring of Roses. It took rather a long time to get the children into a circle as they did not understand us and we did not understand the children. In the end we had a lovely circle and had a lot of fun. The children wanted to sing it lots of times and were soon joining in with 1,2,3!
During the Secondary School break time we went to meet the girls and caused chaos by showing them the Instant Camera. They all then wanted a photograph taking and Lucy got totally surrounded by the girls, many of them were taller than her! We gave the photographs to Sister Rose and told the girls that if they work hard Sister Rose will give the photographs to them.
The Secondary School has two parts. The High School currently has 110 pupils aged 10 – 12 years old and the Higher Secondary has 130 pupils 13- 17 year olds. Sister Rose explained that she has introduced a new uniform. Instead of a sash that is difficult to keep neat the girls now wear what Sister Rose called a jacket. It has not got sleeves so we would call it a waistcoat. It does look very smart and the girls like it. The Government provides all the students with two new uniforms each academic year. The High School uniform is blue with orange ribbons in their hair. The Higher Secondary uniform is green with green ribbons.
During the visit we were able to spend time in each classroom and again took an Instant Photograph of each class which we gave to their teacher. They are all working very hard because it is exam time. Sister Rose explained that the number of exams has increased and the number of papers the girls have to take has also increased . The subjects are split into two groups:
Maths, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Tamil and English
Commerce, Economics, Accountancy, Computer Application, Tamil, English
Each exam is 2 and half hours and the Pass Mark out of 100 is 35. If the girls do not achieve the Pass Mark they have to keep retaking the exam. Sister Rose makes sure they get extra help and the students at her school do very well and many of them achieve very high marks.
In all the classes the girls understood and spoke very good English. They were keen to ask questions and to find out more about Westfield Infant School . The day is split into lessons of 45 minutes and the classes varied in size from 14 to over 30. They all sat at desks and again thanks to funds raised by the Nevett Fund the school has much better facilities than it did before the Nevett Fund started to support improvements. As well as the classrooms we saw the Library, the Science Room and the Computer Room.
All the older students we spoke to had aspirations to do well at school. They told us they want to be; Doctors, Teachers, Accountants, Engineers and work in Computing. As well as a big University in Pondicherry there is also an Engineering College and an Art College. Once the students get to that age they can get a scholarship which is why Sister Rose impresses on the girls how important it is to study hard and get the highest marks they can.
117 of the girls at St Mathias School live at a hostel called St Saviour. A smaller number of girls live at one of three orphanages run by a lady who has family living in France who support the voluntary work she is doing and 17 live at Rock House. If the girls did not live in these places they would not be able to attend St Mathias School and they are all very keen to do well as they see education as a great opportunity to help their families.
Sister Rose explained that they are always short of places for the girls to live. If the girls live at the Hostel, St Saviours or Rock House they have a very strict routine;
4.00 – 5.00 a.m. – the girls get up, wash, get ready for the day and do jobs like washing their clothes and cleaning
5.00 -6.00 a.m. – the girls study
6.00 – 6.50 a.m. – Prayers
6.50 – 7.30 a.m. - the girls clean and tidy their belongings and room
7.30 a.m. - Breakfast
8.00 a.m. – the girls get ready and leave for school
They have breakfast and supper at the hostel or orphanage and a meal in the middle of the day at school.
When they get back from school they are expected to do jobs and to study. They have a short time each evening to choose what they want to do and many of them enjoy dancing.
Sister Rose also explained that the girls go to school on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and also Saturday. During exam preparation they also go to school on Sunday! The girls we spoke to showed great resilience, independence and self control. In fact Mrs MacLauchlan and Brumas decided that the girls displayed all the character words. Sister Rose told us that the help and support from the Nevett Fund has improved the educational opportunities for the students. She said that this is thanks to Andrew Childs who first visited these schools 12 years ago and in conjunction with Phil Nevett inspired schools and members of the community in Leicestershire to finance and support the improvements. She asked us to thank you all and to say how grateful she and all her staff are that so many people have supported the Nevett Fund and improved the life chances of so many children and young people.