Sarnath, close to the holy Shiva city of Varanasi (Benaras), is the place where, around 400BC, the enlightened Buddha came from Bodhgaya to give his first teachings. Today Sarnath is a gentle agrarian village with a main street, a central stupa in a deer park marking the place where Buddha first taught and a few temples which attract some passing pilgrims and tourists. Despite its proximity to Varanasi and tourism, Sarnath remains unprejudiced by modern trappings, there are still more cycle rickshaws than autos, more clay cups than plastic. The people living around the school are often economically poor, the children sometimes malnourished.
Education here, as throughout India, is not compulsory; it is often not valued especially for girl children, and schools sometimes lack compassion and students learn by rote.
The first Alice School that Valentino and Luigina built in 1994, now teaches up to 800 children aged between 5 and 18. The hostel within the school provides residence for 42 students, most of them are Chakmas.
There are 22 full time teachers, one part time massage teacher, together with some volunteers.The school building covers an area of 26,112 square feet and encompasses 22 classrooms, a central courtyard, play ground, garden, agricultural area for growing vegetables and a kitchen boasting a genuine Italian pizza oven.
There was afternoon classes for about 30 women and girls from the surrounding area, offering basic literacy and practical instruction in hygiene, health and sewing. Evening classes (6.30-9.00pm) were organized specifically for working students and child labourers offering basic literacy, music and drama.
Now this sideproject is closed due to lack of funds.
A second school was opened in Sarnath in 2001 mainly to encourage the extremely poor families living in the area to send their children to school. As the illiteracy rate in this area is one of India’s highest (nearly 100%) proximity of school premises could be seen as an incentive. Before 2009, there was 35 regular pupils aged between 4 and 9 and three teachers. Most of them were girls which is by itself encouraging considering that in States like Uttar Pradhesh girls are generally denied access to education.
Now this second school is closed due to lack of funds.