The India Challange

The challenges of reaching children in India are greatPROBE (Public Report on Basic Education)

Reaching India’s Children
for Christ

 

A sea of facesThe challenges of reaching children in India are great! In India alone 48% of the population is under the age of 13! By the year 2020, many project that India will have a population of 1.3 billion people. If India continues to grow at its present rate it will become the most populated country on the face of the earth.

A recent study published by PROBE (Public Report on Basic Education) conducted among several states in northern India indicated that the average years of schooling for children is 1.8 years for girls and 2.2 years for boys.

The challenge in the education of Indian children is found both in the numbers of students per teacher and the unavailability of a proper classroom environment. The study reported that if all children were attending school there would be an average of 60-70 students per teacher. Some efforts have been made by outside agencies and organizations to help in improving the standards of basic education.

I have observed a basic education school (1-5 grades) at a coastal fisherman village. In this particular village school there were at least 150 children gathered under a large shade tree. Other older children were gathered in a nearby schoolroom. There were two teacher’s desks in the middle of the schoolyard under the shade tree. The smaller children were sitting on the ground in two large groups around the wooden desks. One teacher was seated at his desk and teaching the children. There was one large black board. The other teacher was not in sight.

After having spent five months working among small children in rural villages, I was amazed with the openness of the Hindu parents to allow their children to attend our weekly Bible programs. It was with some apprehension that we began eleven weekly Bible programs among these predominantly Hindu communities. Our concern was whether the elders of these villages would allow us to teach their children Biblical Christian values.

After several weeks of the programs and experiencing little opposition I asked the pastor I was working with why we weren’t having such problems. He shared with me what I believe is an insight into the attitude of Indian parents and the government towards the basic education of children.

The common view of a village parent is one of passivity and neglect toward education. This is not to say that they don't love their children. Having little or no education themselves, they have difficulty seeing the importance of an education for their children. In many villages 30% of the people read and write. The lack of good jobs even for those with college degrees does not encourage the parents to educate their children beyond the fifth grade. The fact that we were able to teach Christian values at such a young age to their children seemed not a threat to their beliefs. The parents expected the children when reaching maturity to adopt their values as their own.

The government of India has made some efforts towards mandatory education for all children, but due to lack of resources, and the mere numbers of children, educational goals and standards are slow to improve. Often students and parents become discouraged due to the local teacher’s absence or the delay in educational materials reaching their villages. The lack of vigilance by the government, the teachers, and the parents accounts for the fact that many children do not go beyond the fifth standard.

In one village, a local teacher told us that out of all the children that complete the fifth standard only 20% would continue onto the sixth grade. The reason for this is because a local high school was not available to these children within their community. Those who want to attend beyond the fifth standard need to travel some 7-8 kilometers to a larger community to attend there. The standard to compete academically beyond the fifth class is out of reach for many of these less privileged children.

Our children's programs in India have been evangelistic. We worked among Hindu communities with less than 3-4 percent of Christians. We are offered a fifty- week Bible program called Firm Foundations for Children. The material covered a chronological teaching plan following the theme of salvation beginning in the book of Genesis and ending with the Gospels and the ascension of Christ. Each week a new lesson is given at the Bible village centers.

We have used a circuit rider approach to teach the Bible lesson. Lessons were translated for teachers and a brief orientation was given as to the use of each week's lesson plans. The teaching of the lessons was enhanced with the help of charts, puppets, coloring pictures and flannel graph materials. These materials helped to keep the attention of the children directed and to clearly illustrate the lessons.

Several tools were used for teaching. The use of a 2’ x 3’ flannel board with 12” felt figures drew children and adults to the program. With crowds of 50-120 children and adults in attendance, the pictures could be clearly seen from 30-50 feet. The use of a storybook with 182 different stories was used with the flannels. The combination of the flannel stories and a twenty-week teaching outline using the Firm foundation materials brought a clear, building, message each week. Key scriptures from each lesson were given as memory work for the children. Rewards were given to the children who completed that week’s memory work.

Several different types of puppets were helpful to make the lessons exciting and playful for the children. Different puppets were used during the time of singing and two main puppets taught the children the beginning lessons. A folding puppet stage roughly four feet by two feet and six feet high was made from square light aluminum with a bright curtain cloth in the front and attachable cloth on the sides and the front. The stage was constructed in such a way as to make it easy for travel. Set up could be done within minutes of the arrival at the ministry location.

English Christian children songs were translated into the local Telegu language and then recorded with the local style of singing by a local Christian artist-composer with the help other Christian artists. The songs were taught from a pre-recorded tape with the use of a tape deck/amplifier, powered by a rechargeable battery. The same tape deck was used as the sound system for the program.

One new song was taught each week along with the previous songs of preceding weeks being reviewed in a 10-15 minute time of singing at the beginning of each week’s program. White poster charts were used to show the words of the song to increase the learning curve of the kids. The songs were sung in an order to emphasize the content of each week’s lesson. Programs were in length from 1 ½ hrs. - 2 hours and offered in a central location of the village. Most villages were made up of a mixed caste with both high and low caste people. Children from most castes were in attendance each week. Ninety percent of the children that attended the programs were from a Hindu family background.

Though the need is great to educate India's many children, the task is not impossible. God continues to look for those who will be the answer to His prayer for laborers. Laboring is hard work, and it requires a certain type of person. Are you that type of person? Are you willing to work hard, and to go through sacrifices and take risks in order that children will benefit from your labor?

For us to think of our comfort and disregard the cries of the many whom have not the knowledge of God is sin. What will you do? Will you be one of the laborers to teach children?