What we learned from visiting every single student’s home

Before Collaborative Schools joined Jana Uddhar, once a year the school would take the students out of class for a day and march them around the community holding up a banner, in an effort to attract new students.

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It had zero impact.

Our approach is different. We go out and visit every single parent, sit down and drink tea with them (lots of tea), talk about our school and listen to them. We ask them to advocate for our school, and encourage their neighbours to send their children to our school too. And we print a flyer that looks better than anything to local private schools produce!

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And we learn so much:

Our children come from very poor families. They live in tin shacks (partly because of the 2015 earthquake) or small huts. Many work as domestic servants for the wealthy families in the area. We learned that one of our students gets up at 3am each day to travel across town to buy vegetables for the family he works for. We learned that another student lives with his alcoholic mother, literally surrounded by bottles of homemade brew.

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Our parents want English, English, English. It’s the measure of the success of an education in their eyes, and something we need to improve on. They also want homework, lots of homework!

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We exist in an incredibly competitive education market. There are private schools everywhere, and we have to deliver a better education than they offer. One man stopped out teachers to ask about our school, only to throw the flyer back at them when they learned we were a public school. That’s the stigma we have to fight against.

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But the best thing we learn is that our parents really like our school. They’re incredibly supportive and positive. At the end of the day, all the teachers re-convene for a de-brief and lunch, and it’s great to see them all sharing stories and proud of their school.

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