About the area
Kachuberia is located in the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. It comprises a series of villages scattered either side of the main road (Number 117) that runs between Diamond Harbour and Kakdwip. Kulpi village is the hub of the area.
Just a mile to the west is the Hooghly River which at this point is widening out as it prepares to flow out into the Bay of Bengal. The land here is low-lying and flat thus very susceptible to flooding during the monsoon season and cyclone season.
Agriculture dominates the area but people also make their livelihoods from fishing in the river and brick-making. In fact, there are around 40 brick kilns lining the eastern river bank between Diamond Harbour and Kulpi that employ more than 18,000 people.
The government has grand plans to create the Kulpi Economic Zone in this area comprising modern all-weather port facilities, an environment-friendly ship breaking yard, and an industrial park. Construction threatens an estimated 90 villages and 150,000 people, as well as small factories, cottage industries and other business and services. However, the new development is currently proceeding slowly due to a lack of political will.
While the new development may provide some new jobs for villagers in the future, most people in this area currently earn their livelihoods through agricultural work and fishing. Some women make saris which are sold in Kolkata by middle-men but this means that they receive a low price for each one. Children are often forced to help their parents to augment the family income. Thus regular school attendance can be erratic, dropout rates are high, and literacy levels are well below average.
About the local organisation and history of CRS involvement
In 1992, a group of women formed the Kachuberia Development Action Group with the aim of improving the welfare and development of the poor and disadvantaged people from their village, particularly women and children. They run small schools and a women’s empowerment project.
CRS has been supporting their education programme since 2009 focused on the four villages of Karimnagar, Purkaitpara, Chak Monohari and Anoarpur. Across the four villages there is a total population of about 3,200 (560 families), of which over 1,800 are children. About 80 per cent of families in this area are Muslim and 20 per cent Hindu.
Current CRS programmes
The education programme focuses on pre-primary school age (2 to 5 years). The CRS Education Centre draws children from different villages and currently has over 70 students.The curriculum is based on ‘joyful learning’ methods and there is an emphasis on dance, music, drawing and storytelling.
Regular home visits are made to motivate parents to send their children to school, and monthly parent-teacher meetings keep parents informed of their children’s progress. The children also receive nutritional supplements in the form of a midday meal and those suffering from iron deficiency anaemia receive iron supplements. Every effort is made to mainstream the children to government schools so that they can continue with their education.
“My mother took me to school when I was 3 years old. At school we learnt the alphabets in Bengali and English, were taught rhymes and told stories. I love to draw and colour so the teacher gave me a book and crayons. Now I have gone to a big school but I still miss my old school in the village.”
– Priyanka Halder, former student of Kachuberia school
Support is needed to continue the education programme, particularly funding for one additional teacher, plus the provision of educational materials, midday meals for the children, and medicines and materials for the iron deficiency anaemia campaign.