Compounding the stress is the response to curtail the crisis with government lockdowns, the closure of schools and a stalled economy which has disrupted local and international fundraising.
The students and teachers from The School of Life have been directly impacted by this crisis. All public schools will remain closed until mid-late August. Education as a tool to break the cycle of poverty has been disrupted. What matters most right now is access to the primary essentials for life - food, security, and shelter.
India has grown to become the third hardest-hit country facing the COVID-19 crisis with almost 700,000 reported cases and this number is growing rapidly.
In a country of over 1.38 billion people 4% of India’s population live in extreme poverty. In Varanasi, that percentage is much higher with over a third of the population living below the poverty line. Most of Varanasi’s poor are migrants living in slums fabricated out of recycled blankets, plastic sheets or other items found for reuse. On top of this, many living in the slums have limited access to clean water, sanitation, electricity and medical facilities. These are the families of many of the students from The School of Life.
Although life in the city for migrants was harsh prior to the pandemic, there was still hope that with hard work and an education, life could get better. Public education is not accessible for many migrants who rely on the support of NGOs such as The School of Life to provide schooling.
Many of those living in the slums had migrated to Varanasi to seek out opportunities not available in their local villages. With its prominence as a spiritual centre Varanasi’s tourism industry created many jobs. For the rickshaw puller, road side seller or hotel worker the presence of tourists provided a small income. Today, the closure of schools and tourism industry means those opportunities are temporarily defunct.
Whilst we watch in disbelief what’s occurring in the world, we are also compelled to reflect on how humanity should emerge from this crisis. However, many families in India, like the students and teachers from The School of Life, are a long way from contemplating recovery. They are surviving.
Here at SCOOP Foundation Australia, we aim to support the students and teachers from The School of Life. If you want to show them your support to engage in a renewed sense of hope, please donate or become a crew member.