Summer is over, the cool weather is moving in and the kids are back in school. Always a bittersweet time of year. The long hours playing cricket or an afternoon game of chess are done. Time for 6 days a week of school – half day on Saturday – and evening tutors to help everyone keep up. Personal fun time is reserved for Sundays.

Our kids work hard to do well in school. You have heard me say it many times, but the truth is most of our kids did not attend school before coming to us. That means they have to make up many years of schooling to be in a class with kids their own age. It has been a struggle, a huge challenge for some. Imagine sitting in a 5th grade class at the age of 16 – not the best self esteem booster.

This year we decided to form an open 10th class for those kids that have not yet caught up to their peers. We hired a full-time teacher. We have our own school to facilitate an environment where they are comfortable and can take the time they need to catch up.

It is early in the morning, before dawn, the shades are drawn and the fans are on low, moving the air into a comfortable balmy warmth. Our free-range rooster literally calling the kids to arms. Time to get up, get ready for school and tackle the daily lesson plan. Under the watchful eye of Mr. Prakash, the students are fully engaged and eager to get as far as they can. After a full morning session, a lunch break and then back to the books.

For the rest of the kids, on the bus after breakfast and home at 4:00 pm. They have an hour before dinner, followed by an evening of tutoring to go over homework.

India has a difficult and often times stressful educational system. How well a child does on exams throughout the year determines their future. A score dictates where and if they can go on to the next level of education. If the score is not enough, the door closes to higher education-period.

Our experiment is working. Our open 10th class have made significant strides, most getting through a year worth of curriculum in a couple of months. They all plan to take their 10th class exams in March of 2019. Those who score well enough will move forward in their education. For those who don’t, they can take another year in our open 10th class and try again in 2020.

When asked how they like the new arrangement, smiles from ear to ear and a loud and confident, “Yes!”

After a long day, an evening lesson and a strong cup of tea, we sit in a circle and dream about what our futures could be – a doctor, a teacher, a research scientist, an artist, a chef. Their earnest words and determined eyes fill the air with the power of possibility.