This October, 16 children from low-income communities in India visited Eton College as part of a two-week OSCAR Foundation Football and Education tour of the UK.
The children were met by 15 Eton boys to take part in friendly football matches that took place on Eton’s College Field on Friday 6 October. After the first match, the players mixed themselves up with OSCAR children and Eton boys playing together on each other’s teams. Each match was opened by a musical accompaniment on the bagpipes, played by an Eton boy.
The OSCAR Foundation seeks to educate and mobilise vulnerable children living in low-income communities in India, so that they are equipped with the life skills to take responsibility for the development of their community.
Their Football Programme targets children and young people between 6 and 22 years old, who can play football with the team on the condition they continue to attend school and complete their basic education.
Eton Connect Coordinator Eleanor Chownsmith said: “The OSCAR team were a pleasure to host at Eton College. The children’s bright, fun, and inquisitive nature shone throughout their visit and the OSCAR staff were incredibly supportive, wonderful role models for both their team and our pupils.”
Since its formation in 2010, the OSCAR Foundation has impacted the lives of 14,000 children. It currently has over 7,000 children regularly attending school.
During their visit to Eton, the children joined Eton’s boys (many of whom spoke Hindi) for lunch – their first experience of fish and chips. They all then took part in an art lesson, plus workshops in Eton’s Museum of Antiquities. The visit to Eton also included a tour featuring Lower School, the oldest classroom in Europe, as well as 550-year-old paintings in College Chapel.
Akshan, a boy at Eton, said: “The Oscar Foundation visit to Eton College was a culturally enriching experience, wherein I learnt lots about the distinctions between India and the UK from the perspective of schoolchildren based in Mumbai.
“It was great fun getting to know new people with vastly different viewpoints and productively collaborating with them on tasks such as making ‘cyanotypes’. I very much hope to welcome the wonderful OSCAR Foundation to Eton College again in the future.”
The UK School Tours have become a key programme for OSCAR, creating life-changing opportunities whilst raising funds and aspirations. The operation is not without its complications as staff must first obtain birth certificates, passports, and UK Visa applications for the children – a complicated process when parents have no official papers.
This has been the first year that a mixed team of boys and girls have competed in the U16 OSCAR team. Many OSCAR tour alumni are pursuing university degrees, playing football for leading clubs, and are the first in their families to have office jobs.
Head of OSCAR International Lucinda Sowerbutts said: “The OSCAR UK tour is an opportunity for young people from different cultures and backgrounds to learn from each other and make lifelong friendships along the way.
“The impact on pupils, teachers and parents is life changing and motivates our girls and boys to stay in education and believe in the dreams. We are so grateful to have the support of so many young people in the UK who make this exciting journey possible.”