History of FCDP

Fr. Sunny Uppan SDB
(Former Executive Director)

FCDP has been rendering its service to the poor and the needy of the coastal belt of Kollam District since 1985. Back then, more than half the fisher folk were living in deplorable conditions. Education remained impossible amidst grueling poverty in the huts and colonies, which provided them shelter. Since the electrification in the houses was grossly inadequate, many of the school going children had to depend on kerosene lamps and candle lights. This triggered a steep fall in the pass percentage of children in the coastal schools. Failures and drop-outs increased to a very large extent.

Male students had no other alternative but to return to the traditional trade of fishing along with their fathers in order to make a living. The girls on the other hand confined themselves to homes without pursuing their studies. This plight of the fisher folk which was brought to light by the educational survey conducted in 1985 was an eye-opener for FCDP. The organization lost no time in chalking out a comprehensive programme to cater to the needs of these deprived people.

The humble beginnings of the educational programs were in the form of tuition classes exclusively for the students of 8th and 9th standards. 75 underprivileged children found their succor in FCDP which provided tuition, both in the morning and evening at Pallithottam. The tuition centers registered a robust growth and opened new centers at Moothakkara, Vaddy and Thangassery , thereby taking the number of centers to 4 in 1988. This phenomenal growth further inspired FCDP to render financial assistance to students in the higher education sector. By 1992 there were 5 tuition centers including the one opened at Port Kollam. Taking into account the high concentration of fishermen in the slum areas of Chinnakada and Mundakkal , centers were opened to cater to the educational needs of the people there.

FCDP was able to script its success in the educational sector through relentless efforts to rope in failed students and drop-outs and by putting them once again on the track of learning. With a slew of measures undertaken by FCDP, the pathetic and plummeting educational standards underwent a sea-change for the better.

In 1985
• The schools along the coast had very low pass percentage.
• Large scale drop-outs from schools
• Children took to fishing putting aside their studies
• Very few went for higher education
• Lack of congenial atmosphere for studying at home
• Inability to pay high tuition fees
• A poor educational progress at the rate of 40%

Twenty years of incessant work by FCDP and the flawless execution of its programmes ensured a steady development as detailed below.

• Increase in the pass percentage
• More children attended classes
• Drop in the number of students who took to fishing for livelihood
• More students went in for higher education
• Youth took recourse to trades other than fishing
• Many could afford education
• Interest in education rapidly increased
• There was a record 90% educational progress

However, despite this progress, various factors have adversely affected the pursuit of knowledge. Successful education still remains an unachievable dream as the atmosphere is not conducive for educational improvement with congested houses, distracting modern gadgets of entertainment and uncertainties in the employment market. In the wake of such development, there is an increasing demand for tuition by the students to retain their interest in education and to anchor them safely in the highly competitive environment.

FCDP has been abundantly blessed with ample facilities to house its tuition centers in schools and institutions in the respective areas. This has considerably reduced the burden of finding buildings and other amenities, thanks to the co-operation and support of Parish Priests and Convent authorities.

However, the major roadblock to this ambitious programme is the severe financial crunch. When foreign funds were readily available between 1985 and 1995, FCDP rendered its service without collecting any fees from the students. But the drastic drop in foreign funds has forced FCDP to depend on small contributions from students. It has now become increasingly difficult to manage various projects like nursery classes, evening classes for Classes 4 to 10 etc. owing to acute paucity of funds. Nearly 28 teachers handling classes have to be paid. The electricity charges, expense of conducting examinations, costs of answer sheets, stationery and the expenses of other extra-curricular activities are spiraling out of control. The meager sum collected as tuition fees from the students is hardly sufficient to meet the immense expenses. Not even a quarter of the expenses can be met with the tuition fees. The fisher folk cannot be forced to shell out money for fees when the pittance they earn is hardly enough to make both ends meet. The only time when the fishermen earn is the period between June and October and the rest of the time they are able to pay only a small sum of money proportionate to their earnings. Hence the students cannot be asked to pay fees in such months. Moreover it is worth mentioning that in the aftermath of the Tsunami of 26th December 2004, the resources in the sea have depleted and the income of the fishermen have touched an all-time low.

In these circumstances the fees collections has also been affected severely. The changes in the sea-bed has reduced the availability of fish. Such financial problems have created difficulties in the smooth running of the tuition centers. It might take more than 10 years to set things right. FCDP has a daunting task ahead. It has to sustain and keep up the gigantic strides already taken. This necessitates substantial monetary help from external sources.

The proposed project is of great importance to the target groups. The implementation of the project will provide them with the opportunity to become literate and move up the ladder of education. Thus the project will improve their educational standard, which will greatly influence and affect their overall development.

Through various activities such as nursery schools, lower primary classes, tuition centers and children’s forums, the level of education in the coastal area will be improved. Thus the objective of providing quality education to the children and youth of the fishing community can be achieved...