Where Do They Go?
In May, following their fifth birthday, crèche children graduate. There is no kindergarten in crèche villages so when they start the new school year in June, they will enter first grade. They carry with them quite an extraordinary skill set. They’re adept at yoga, dance, performance, reciting, singing, and public speaking. They know the English alphabet and parts of the extensive Tamil alphabet; they can count and do simple arithmetic. They are comfortable in a group, know how to transition, and are respectful towards teachers and each other. They have good hygiene, and keep themselves clean and tidy. They are well nourished and healthy, with good energy, self-discipline, and a will to learn.
Not surprisingly, crèche children are very welcome in first grade, where they are models for children who are coming directly from home. The more able crèche children are offered scholarships to convent schools. These schools are more rigorous than government schools. A number of these scholarships last right through high school. Mrs. Hilda, the crèche director, is able to offer limited assistance to graduates who require on-going medical attention, or for whom financial assistance is needed to further particular studies.
Mrs. Hilda and the crèche teachers keep an eye on their graduates as they often see them around the villages where most travel on foot. They also get news from the children’s new headmasters and teachers. Crèche teachers have high expectations for their graduates and when they meet, children better be prepared to give a good accounting. Teachers are often invited to weddings and graduations of former crèche kids.
There is a sense that the crèche communities are truly that: people working together for the common good, with a mutual and deep involvement in the progress of their children. Many people are watching crèche children, and all are expecting great things from them. This is hope.