Providence School started in 1999 as an after school project. Br. Eric d’Souza and a group of volunteers helped young children with basic literacy skills. The aim was to get the children to a level that was appropriate for their age group, so that they could then join mainstream school.
The group later discovered that many of these students were dropping out of mainstream primary school. Although public schools are free in India, the families couldn’t afford the schoolbooks, copies, pencils, uniforms etc. So they decided to convert the old dorm in St. Edmunds school and make classrooms. The students could then stay on in Providence and complete their schooling.
When the school began the students were only spending 5 or 6 years in formal education. A program was created for them that would maximise the time spent in school. They learn English, use computers, cook meals, do hairdressing and beauty care, make wooden furniture, repair motorcycles and knit baby clothes.They have 12 trades at the moment.
In the year 2000 a group of students and teachers from Tipperary and Drogheda travelled to India to see the after-school project. One of the teachers suggested Br. d’Souza hires a full-time teacher and that they would fund it. The Tipperary school continued to visit until 2011 and the Drogheda school is still involved.
In 2005, one of the students from the 2000 school trip went to NUI Maynooth and brought a group of four new volunteers over to Providence. Those four are the founders of Providence Education (the Irish organisation). We’ve been involved since 2005 and visit regularly.
In 2009 it became clear that the students were going to struggle with the state examinations in India. Mostly due to administration problems; some didn’t have birth certs and others had the wrong year on their birth cert. We were tasked with creating an exam all students could take. We created an exam for English, Computers, Home Economics and two trade subjects. We also made a scholarship fund to pay for further education.
During the summer of 2016 we had a series of meetings with the teachers of Providence about the Irish exam. India has changed a lot in the past number of years. In the oldest class in the school, only two students don’t have birth certs. And every student in the younger years have certificates. Our students are also becoming more successful at the state examinations as they are spending longer in school. It was decided that we could put our energy into other projects if we ended the Irish certificate. The last batch of students will be finishing their exams in November 2016. After that all students will take Class 10 and 12 (equivalent to the Irish Leaving Cert).