A Santali educational story

This is a Santal story I have translated as part of my studies into the tribal language of the area. The story comes from a children’s school text book which I have worked through over the course of a year. I have tried to stick as close to the original Santali as I could but made changes where it sounds better in the English to phrase it slightly differently. I apologise now to any Santal friends who read this and recognise how poor a translation this is.

Bhudu’s Sadness

Bhudu has no father. His mother is alone and has no one else. His mother works in the fields with other men and women planting rice plants, collecting straw and wandering around looking for various jobs. Bhudu, with Bangalee boys, looks after sheep and cows.

When Bhudu is looking after the cows, he sees nice children on the road coming and going to school. He becomes very sad and thinks “Oh how wonderful they are.” Because they all have parents they can go to the wonderful school. Because they study they will have a good future when they grow up. If his father was alive he could go to school all the time. When Bhudu thinks of his father’s words, tears begin to fall from his eyes. But what can he do? He is an orphan boy and will spend his days tending cattle.

As luck would have it, in his second year a Mission built a school in his village. All of the many, many children in the village began going to the school. When he saw them, Bhudu felt so very, very sad. He desperately wants to go to school. But he is a poor boy. His mother is a widow so how can she find money to pay for his education?

But Bhudu doesn’t understand. One day he says to his mother “Mother, I am going to go to school.”

His mother replies to him, “Yes, son, I want you to be enrolled at the school too. Tomorrow we will go and enrol you.”

Bhudu asked, “But Mother, are you able to pay the school fees?”

His mother replies, “No son. We will ask the teacher and perhaps there will be no need to pay.”

“Then we will enrol at the school!”

Two days later, his mother really did enrol him at the school and now Bhudu laughs with children on the way to school and is happy.

And he always concentrates hard on his studies.

The End

Although written about 20 years ago, this story still rings quite true today with Bhudu’s situation being the case for, undoubtedly, hundreds of children in a tribal community of around 250,000-300,000. I wanted to post this on the blog just to show what a very different educational story is given here from what I’ve known in the UK and how the attitude towards education is so very different.

Because education is so available in the West, we all tend to take it for granted and, to be honest, most of us abuse it. If you are still at school, you may well feel nothing but contempt for the management, the buildings, the courses and, of course, the teachers.  If you are a parent, you may well worry about how much the school is’ letting your children down’ or how other schools provide a ‘much better learning environment’ for your child. We’ve become spoilt – in the same sense we use it with (other people’s ) children – for choice and we’ve forgotten that there is no reason why education should be a right, despite the fact we think it is. It is, and always will be, a privilege. And one we should cherish.

Whilst that attitude can occur in Bangladesh, it tends to be only with the middle class students. Again, I suspect, not realising just how lucky they are. But the poor tend to have a pretty good grasp of what is going on. Whilst studying books won’t help anyone tend a field and grow food  (well it will, but that is not the main thing you learn) it is appreciated that it does teach you how to keep yourself clean, to look after yourself, you make best use of resources, to train your mind to think better and faster and can provide you with qualifications that can earn you more money and a better lifestyle for you and your family.

My suggestion is that you read the story again, simple though it is, and just reflect on the education you had – warts and all. Then think of Bhudu and all the children he represents.


About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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6 Responses to A Santali educational story

  1. hiMe says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the privilege of education.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. saradraws says:

    It’s a difficult thing to explain to a privileged 7 year old that school is something kids elsewhere want more than anything. We try, but I’m not sure how much it sinks in. But I don’t think I would have listened to my folks at that age either about how awesome school is. At least we’re building a foundation of compassion even if the walls have yet to be built.


    • It’s true. I think we have the education thing upside down to be honest, in the West. We make it essential to be educated rather than happy and teach our kids not to be content with what they are but to strive for more. Are we any happier for it? I don’t know. But here, it DOES make a difference and does improve lives but there is a general ethos in most of Bangladesh (I think) that what you have is what you were dealt with and you just have to get on with it. In some ways, that is much healthier way to look at life…


      • saradraws says:

        Yes! We are always taught to Get MOre, Be More, Have More, and if you ask me, we seem to be a culture of unhappy people. We could learn much from Bangladesh.


        • I’m glad you agree. For my part, I have been learning from Bangladesh and my friends here for six years. There may be much that is wrong here, but there is so much that is right! Thanks for your comments 🙂


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