I arrived back at the Mathieson Music School in Kolkata for the third time on 8th February 2020. This time accompanying our second group of students from Strode College, Street, Somerset. We were greeted with the usual enthusiasm from the children in the school but something was wrong. There are no girls here. (Well one girl Brihspoti, who still lives locally enough to come to the school as a day pupil).
On 9th August 2019 government officials descended on the Mathieson Music school en masse and decreed that the school's dormitory facilities were not sufficient to accommodate the girls of the school alongside the boys and they should be removed from the school immediately. Sairul Molla, with one days notice, managed to arrange for all the girls to be returned to their homes rather than them being re-homed by the government. Subsequently the team from the school has arranged for most of the girls to be placed in good schools in their own localities, and have visited each of them at their homes.
This situation is a travesty for so many reasons. Each of the girls who attended the Mathieson Music School were given the opportunity to study up to their class 10 - board exam, the equivalent of GCSE's. They received a well rounded education including written and spoken English and Bengali, at least one musical instrument, plus tabla and Bengali singing. More than their education, they were well cared for: provided with clothing, school uniform, regular meals, a roof over their head and much love and support from the staff team.
All the opportunities have been stripped away from the girls at MMS overnight due to new, ill-conceived government regulations. Which were designed to safeguard children but in fact, in schools like MMS, they have actually made the girls situation far more precarious.
When children from poor backgrounds in India receive an education it not only benefits them but also enables them to financially support their parents and siblings. The children who come to the Mathieson Music School already come from family contexts where they have sick or unreliable parents and their futures, without the support of the school, do not look bright.
For girls, this is even more of a problem: they will lose any opportunity to help their families and will most likely be married-off as soon a possible.
It will cost £300,000 to build a dormitory for 50 girls - the cost of a small house in Somerset. It means roughly 50 per girl. The longer it takes to raise the funding the more the cost is likely to spiral.
I am hoping that there are 50 communities groups and churches across our region who could commit to raising £6,000 then we could enable Mathieson Music School to continue educating girls and enabling them to have fulfilled lives and to support the lives of those around them.