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Let us pray for pencils

India. Children in a primary school in the eastern state of Bihar start their day with an unusual "prayer". As teachers enter, they break out into a solemn chant: "Lord give our teacher this day blackboard to write on and chalk to write with."

Their prayer has not yet been answered. Teachers and the authorities hope the children will succeed where they have failed: in pressurising the local administration to sanction funds to buy stationery.

The school in the village of Brahampur has been without blackboards, chalk and pencils since it opened four years ago.

A project funded by the World Bank to improve the conditions of schools has made little progress. Teachers do not get paid regularly, resulting in large-scale absenteeism. A recent World Bank study found that half of India's 67 million children do not go to school.

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