Children in rural India are getting a previously out-of-reach education, thanks to a late woman’s wish and her husband dedication to education and her memory.
Dr. Richard Schneider and his wife, Ruth, founded the Mucheria Global School in India in 1992.
“My good wife was just turning 62 and she wanted to do something with her social security,” says the longtime CEO of the Institute of Global Education, a special NGO of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Ruth had followed her husband around the world when he was working on creating Radio for Peace International for the U.N’s University of Peace in Costa Rica.
Schneider, who has been going to India for 22 years, says the country was chosen for the school because they had developed a contact through the radio station that broadcast messages of peace throughout the world on the shortwave radio.
When the couple began the school in the South Central Indian village of Mucheria in 1992, the area was basically tribal and “low-caste,” people formerly then known as the highly derogatory “untouchables.”
The Schneiders had met and been impressed by Robert Muller, secretary general of the United Nations for 30 years and his teaching philosophy known as the world-core curriculum.
“We decided this was the kind of philosophy and curriculum we wanted to use,” he says. “We started with 30 kids in an English medium school. No one spoke English and the village was 65 per cent illiterate.”
Schneider says even the local language was difficult to understand. He recalls how one young boy spoke only his tribal language and bypassed the language of the village, taking English on as his second language.
The school became extremely successful and, as CEO of the Institute of Global Education, Schneider spent a lot of his time “rushing around the world” raising support, seeking only private money from groups and individuals.
Over a period of six years, the student body rose from 30 students to 180.
Not only was Schneider devastated when Ruth died suddenly in 2000, the couple had taken on responsibility for several children who had nothing.
“I decided to give everything else up to run the school, write the curriculum, train teachers…” he says. “By this time, we had kids ready to graduate and I had suggested to them, if they did really well, I’d guarantee them a college education.”
Schneider laughs when he says he thought there would only be a handful of students, but in a couple of years had 28 in college.
“Twelve years later, we’ve graduated more than 30 from college and graduate school,” he says with pride. “We have actually graduated six MBAs.”
Schneider spends six months of the year working with the students and negotiating fees with about a dozen colleges throughout the world.
“What we are now trying to do is continue the program to provide scholarships,” he says.
Known as Grandpa to grateful villagers, 77-year-old Schneider is also looking ahead to the future of the school. Two of his students – one in law school and the other armed with an MBA – are being groomed to take over.
In the meantime, Schneider continues to devote his time and energy to the school and travelling the world to raise funds.
The World Service Association, one of the primary funders that has raised several scholarships already, is hosting a Taste of India event tonight at 7:30 at First United Church.
Enjoy Indian food and a video on the work of the Institute of Global Education.
“This will be a very different taste of India – this is not the Taj Mahal,” says Schneider. “This is what I consider the real India, the real humanity. More than 70 per cent of the population of India lives in very rural villages, not cities.”