The Zainabiya Child Sponsorship Scheme team, comprising of ZCSS Coordinator, Alibhai Bandali, and WF Lead India, Asadbhai Virani, visited agencies and schools in India between 29th November and 4th December  2021 to assess the work carried out on the ground and met some of the beneficiaries. Places visited included:

1. Bangalore
2. Alipur
3. Kareempur
4. Avalkonda
5. Bhavnagar
6. Mumbai

Continue reading to find out more on the trip.

Discussions with Mirzabhai Mehdi of Imamia Education Welfare Trust

L-R: Alibhai Bandali – ZCSS Coordinator, Mirzabhai Mehdi – Imamia Education, and Asadbhai Virani – WF Lead India

Imamia Education Welfare Trust (IEWT) has 520 students under ZCSS for the academic year 2021-22. Besides this, there are an additional 100 eligible students who are waiting for sponsorship for the current academic year. Mirzabhai Mehdi, who was very pleased by the ZCSS impromptu visit, has expressed to the ZCSS team that there is also a need of increase of funding per student due to the following factors:

  1. Increase in school fees
  2. Non-affordability of parents to meet their share of contribution (some students’ school fees are outstanding since last year)
  3. Increase in operational costs
  4. Implementation of independent assessment of students and providing additional support based on the need

Currently schools in Alipur, Kareempur and Ghosi are registered under IEWT.

Imamia is also actively involved in the management of Alipur and Kareempur schools. To improve the standard of the Kareempur school, Mirzabhai Mehdi has implemented the E-DAC digital syllabus structure for classes LKG to Standard 5 (Ages 4 to 11). This improvement has only been possible because Imamia is actively involved in the school management. Today, ZCSS is not funding this school, however could very well do so, if more donors come forward.

The ZCSS Team also had a look at the past ZCSS students’ records and were pleased to note that Mirzabhai Mehdi has kept a record and an audit trail of students and the funds.

Meeting with Parents and Children (Beneficiaries)

Alibhai Bandali – ZCSS Coordinator and Asadbhai Virani – WF India Lead meeting with Parents and Children of Beneficiaries

The parents that the ZCSS Team met showed concerns about the payment of fees. There was a widow who has 3 children, of which 2 are sponsored by ZCSS and she requested for sponsorship for her 3rd child. Upon further probing into her case, we found that she works in a Bidi factory as her main job to make ends meet. School fees per child comes to INR 20K and she gets INR 10K per child from ZCSS, in total INR 20K. She also gets a small amount as widow support.

The other 2 parents also requested sponsorship for their other children. They were really thankful and appreciative of the scheme and prayed for the donor parents and The World Federation, ZCSS and Imamia teams.

Visit to Alipur School

The ZCSS team made a surprise visit to Alipur school, along with Mirzabhai Mehdi and Mohsinbhai Shirazi, where they met Muzammilbhai – Head of Alipur School, the Principal and the staff of the school.

L-R: Muzammilbhai – Head of Alipur School, Alibhai Bandali – ZCSS Coordinator and Mirzabhai Mehdi – Imamia Education

The ZCSS team reviewed the annual report and then visited classes where they spoke to the students, as well as teachers, and found that the students were very confident in English and came across very proficient answering all the questions that were asked. This is a very organised school that is self-run and self-funded.

The general belief is that they do not take any needy students, however, we found that they have special subsidies for orphans and disabled students (100% subsidy) and a subsidy for needy students depending on circumstances. The school is very professionally run and they have adopted the E-DAC system. The infrastructure is in good shape, however, they have asked for help to rebuild the outside hall.

It is evident that the school is in good hands with quality teachers and a strong backing from the board and the local community in Alipur. Worth noting here is that Alipur is a 90% Shia locality, so majority of the students are Shia. They have numerous success stories of previous students, and their passing rate has not fallen below 95% in the last 20 years. It was pleasing to see that they had their annual report ready for the inspection despite the ZCSS Team’s unannounced visit. The report was a very comprehensive report which they have shared electronically. It is worth noting here is that there are no ZCSS sponsored students currently at this school.

L-R: Alibhai Bandali – ZCSS Coordinator with teachers.

The ZCSS team also met the EDAC coordinator who explained how the system works and at the end she requested for smart boards to implement smart classroom environments.

Visit to Zainabiya School, Kareempur (130 ZCSS Students)

This was also a surprise visit, where we discovered the average class sizes comprised of 45 students. Upon communication with the students, it was evident that they were not confident and could hardly speak a few lines in English, even though this is an English medium school. The computer laboratory had 25 computers and according to the teachers only 8 were working. Thus on average, each student gets their turn on the computer once in 5 weeks.

Alibhai Bandali visiting classrooms and meeting with Teachers and Students

The ZCSS Team had a meeting with Mirzabhai Mehdi, Mohsinbhai and Muzammilbhai to find ways of how we could improve the standard of the school. The challenges of this school are quite different from Alipur. It seems there is a lot more poverty in this area as we noted that some children did not even have footwear.

Few suggestions were made by the team and Imamia have committed to send us a proposal on the improvement of the school in early 2022. We have quite a few ZCSS sponsored students at this school. It is obvious that we have to help this school improve otherwise it will deteriorate further. We will study the proposal that we get from Imamia and see what is the best course of action.

Visit to Mulla Asghar Memorial School (IZM)

The management of the Mulla Asghar Memorial School (IZM) in Avalkonda, has been taken over by Husain Education for the past 2 years. The school doesn’t have a Principal at the moment and is run by Suhelbhai Damani, who is the administrator. However, Husaini Education are in the process of appointing a Headmaster and they have already identified a candidate for the role.

Avalkonda is a small town with 85% Shia population and majority of the families are poor and involved in rolling bidi’s. Since being taken over by Husain Education Management, the school is now run quite well under the guidance of Husaini Education. There are 300 students in the school and Husaini Education has requested that these students be brought under the ZCSS scheme to help run the school better. The students were very confident when asked questions about not just the curriculum, but also general questions about the school and the teachers.

There is also a need for equipment in terms of science lab equipment, computer equipment, library, school books, bags and shoes for the children. Additionally, there is some capital expenditure required to fix a leaking roof, painting, toilets and general maintenance.

Additionally, there is a need for a medical clinic in Avalkonda as there is no such facility for the Shia community of about 5K people. Currently, people have to travel to Chittoor, which is 40 kms away, to get any sort of medical attention. We raised this with HEWST when we met them in Bhavnagar and they agreed that there was a need. This could be a potential area of future collaboration.

Visit to Mahdi School

We had a school introduction by a little girl who gave us a whole tour of the school starting with the Kindergarten, primary, secondary school and college (A levels). At all the schools Alibhai Bandali spoke to the senior classes and instilled the value and importance of Education.

The ZCSS Team then met the Principal and trustees of Mahdi school. As expected, under the guidance of Muhsinbhai Dharamsi, the standard of Mahdi school is very high. It is self-sufficient and does not require any funding or assistance for their day to day running.

The ZCSS Team then met the Principal and trustees of Mahdi school. As expected, under the guidance of Muhsinbhai Dharamsi, the standard of Mahdi school is very high. It is self-sufficient and does not require any funding or assistance for their day to day running.

The ZCSS Team thereafter visited the Husaini Education (HEWST) office for an audit and Needs Assessment.

Needs Assessment: As far as the education needs for HEWST is concerned, they have a requirement of 100 additional HE student’s sponsorship over and above the 300 students. We found that HEWST’s record keeping was up to standard and very transparent.

Visit to Mumbai Jamaat

The ZCSS Team met with the Office Bearers of Mumbai Jamaat, Safderbhai Karmali, Zulfiqarbhai Dawoodani and Salimbhai Dawoodani. They stressed their need for education and medical sponsorship, which equates to approximately £40,000 per year.

Visit to KSI Medical & Welfare Society

ZCSS Team met the trustees of KSI Medical to understand their need for education sponsorship. WF has a history of working with them in ZCSS as well as RRF.

Their need is mainly Sadaat students’ as they currently look after 3000 Sadaat students’ education sponsorship. We found their record keeping to be of sufficient standard for our requirements.

As we commemorate the Shahadat of Sayyida Zainab (s), please continue to support The World Federation’s flagship project, ZCSS in her name.