Monday, May 21, 2018

Fareen - From a school drop-out to a teacher

9:56:00 AM
“I want people to remember me as a girl who was well-educated and self-reliant,” said Fareen with the kind of determination that comes with maturity.
As a child, Fareen was an irregular student due to health issues. She dropped out of school in 7th Grade and stayed with her grandparents to recover. Fareen’s mother was concerned about her losing out on precious years of education. The day she started recovering and was strong enough to attend school again, her mother enrolled her in 8th Grade. There was a lot of resistance from home as Fareen’s father and grandmother were not supportive. With two younger brothers, Fareen’s education was considered as a waste of money. But her mother fought through these beliefs.

Fareen remembers her teachers at Pratham since she was in 8th Grade. They have been with her helping her out with the basics. She passed her exam and enrolled with Pratham’s Second Chance program for Grade 10 examination.
Fareen’s teachers at Pratham say that there was not a single day when they felt that she was tired or unwell. Her enthusiasm and focus helped her push herself harder to be better every day. She would study all day and still find time to work on other skills such as cooking, tailoring and helping her mother with other household chores. Fareen wanted to make up for all those missed years and stay abreast with everyone.
Today, Fareen is in her second year of undergrad studies. She picked up history and sociology for graduation. She teaches history in a private school near her home to support her education. “I use the mind-map technique that I learnt at Pratham in my classroom. The method helped me a lot when I had a tough time memorising or correlating anything, and I want other children to benefit from it early in life,” said Fareen. She wants to complete her graduation and pursue B.Ed. Her love for teaching is evident as through all these years she kept in touch with her teachers.
Fareen talks about the pain she feels when the friends she grew up with, and other girls in the vicinity drop out of school and never complete education. “I keep talking to them and try convincing them to get back, but it is tough to fight with their parents,” she said.
Fareen feels that apart from knowledge and understanding, education adds value to the quality of life. People look up to you and respect you.

Monday, May 14, 2018

"The Second Chance Program was a turning point in my life"

12:13:00 PM
The year 2018 holds immense significance for Sushila Bakoriya as she will complete her graduation in Arts. However more than six years back, she had never expected that one day she would hold a degree certificate in her hand.

Sushila lives at Amrod near Bhopal. In her village, she studied in the government school until the eighth grade. But her village did not offer any opportunity for higher education, and hence she was confined to the small piece of farm-land owned by her family. “During the Kharif season, we grow soybeans and during the rabi season, it is wheat”, she says.  But cultivating wheat requires a lot of water and owing to the severe water shortage her family had to stop its cultivation.

“But this stopped our income, and I had to work as a labourer on others’ farms. It continued for three years, and finally I told my father that I want to study further”, she recalls. Her father did not approve of her plans, but her stubbornness and persistence overcame his restrictions.

Sushila Bakoriya

“I got admitted to a school that was very far from my village. The only mode of transport was the bus. But there was a problem”.  The bus for her village used to leave 15 minutes before the end of the last lecture in school. “The next bus was after two hours, and it made me reach home very late. Hence, I requested my teacher to permit me to leave early.”

“But the teacher was very rude. She felt I was not serious towards education. Finally, I had to quit this school. I was sure that I had lost the opportunity of completing my education.”

However, things changed after a year when a friend told her about the Second Chance Program. And after obtaining the necessary details, she enrolled herself as a student. The year was 2012, four years after she had left school. “It was difficult for the first couple of months. But I thank the teachers for helping me overcome the initial fear”, she says.

Sushila also gives credit to her friends and colleagues in the classroom who inspired her to study. “The group activities helped us bond with each other. Apart from learning, we understood each others’ background, shared many things, and our friendship deepened.”
So, what was the most prominent takeaway for her from the program? She thinks for a while, smiles and says, “I could speak in public and voice my opinion. After completing my 10th grade, I went to the hospital at Bairagadh and asked them to train me for three months so that I could work as a nurse.”

The hospital agreed and paid her a salary of nine hundred rupees for the first three months and then raised it to one thousand five hundred rupees after making her permanent at the job. But she did not stop here. She enrolled herself in the government college for 11th and 12th, and her job ensured that she could pay the fees by herself.
“My father was delighted to see that I was handling my finances. It helped him changed his mind, and he assured me of his support for my higher education”, she says with a smile.

Sushila passed her 12th grade in 2015. Based on her experience, she got a job at Mahi Hospital in Bhopal, and they offered her a salary of five thousand rupees. In the same year, she secured admission in a degree college for her B.A and she will be a graduate this year.  

“The Second Chance Program was a turning point in my life. It came to me when I had lost hope and had never thought that I would one day become a degree holder”, she says with pride.

Monday, May 7, 2018

"I will greet others in English!"

3:40:00 PM

The hockey stick is a natural extension of your hand if you grow up in the Simdega district of Jharkhand, and Kajal Badha was no exception to it! Simdega is a district that has produced stalwarts of Indian hockey and continued this tradition, thanks to the Astroturf hockey stadium in its capital city. Every year many players are selected to get trained at this stadium, who then form a part of the Jharkhand state team, and many of them represent the national team at various international events.

Kajal started to play hockey since she was a child. Initially, she played with a wooden stick, but her school principal Father Benedict spotted her talent and ensured that she got a brand new hockey stick.  Her excellent game coupled with the encouragement she received from school secured her selection at the Astroturf stadium in 2015. Soon she embraced the routine of a hockey professional that included a strict daily practice and a constant touring to other parts of the country for matches.  However, she noticed that she and her teammates lacked in one thing – “We did not know how to speak English.”

“We did not understand what others spoke, and we also did not have any courage to reply if anyone said anything in English”, she says.

It was not that the school she studied in did not teach English. But like schools everywhere, the primary emphasis was on syllabus completion. “We studied English as a subject, but we could not learn it as a language”, she says. The inability to speak English had its repercussions. While travelling outside their state, these girls found it difficult to communicate with others. This problem became intense in non-Hindi speaking states, like in the Southern and North-Eastern States of the country. “We could not understand what the referees would say and many times we could not say anything if we felt that a decision went against us”, she adds. Sensing an urgent need to tackle this problem, the Simdega Hockey Association approached Pratham, and it was decided that the latter would help these girls learn English. It was the year 2016, and the program has continued uninterrupted since then.

“I like this approach towards English. The activities and exercises have made learning a very easy process”, she admits with a smile. While travelling outside Jharkhand, these girls have to talk about themselves, introduce themselves to others and also sometimes talk to the media. “We can understand what others speak; we can talk to the referee and can face the world with confidence. The feeling of ‘I can speak’ is very special”, Kajal says with a smile that reflects satisfaction.  

However, the English language has offered her and her teammates much more than mere speaking to others. “When we travel to other states, we can talk to the senior players and get some valuable tips from them about the game. It helps us improve our playing technique and also improve the knowledge of the game.” Before this program, communicating with girls from other teams was a problem. But now Kajal and her teammates can talk to girls from other teams and be friends with them. “We have got many new friends, and we talk in English with them”, she says.

At the end of our conversation, Kajal thanks Pratham for the English program, but admits that there is a scope for improvement.  “I still find it difficult to understand if someone speaks very fast. But I am sure with more practice; I will be able to overcome this problem”, she says.

Kajal idolises two players and wants to meet them the next time she travels for her team’s matches. They are Mandeep Singh from the Chandigarh team and Asunta Larka from her state of Jharkhand.  “I will compliment them for their playing and will ask them the secret of their game. And, I will talk to them in English”, she says with a cheerful smile.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Back to School after 18 years!

11:25:00 AM
 “I never thought that I would study until the 12th grade. I want to work in an Aanganwadi”, Mamta Mewada began with a smile. “I dropped out of school in 1997 when I was in the 8th grade”.

Mamta resides in Fanda village, on the outskirts of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. She was born in a conservative family where girls were never encouraged to study. To add to this, her family members believed that girls should get married very early and hence she was married when she was only 12 years old. “…But my husband was in the same school! Everyone in school used to tease me…whenever they saw us coming together to school or if he came to my class”, she said. Though she now narrates this incident with a smile, back then, she was a very shy person. Even though she had passed the 8th grade, her family decided to discontinue her studies as there were no girls in the 9th-grade classroom. “They were not ready to send me to a class which did not have any girls. Today, times have changed.”

After discontinuing school, Mamta spent her time doing the household chores and later learned to stitch. It was followed by taking up small stitching assignments and also some part-time jobs in the village. After a few years, she entered the role of a mother, and that is where the urge to complete education till the 10th grade occupied her mind!
“I faced difficulty in helping my children with their homework and felt bad that I was not able to help them on any subject, especially English”, she said. Hence, when she heard of Pratham’s Second Chance Program, she made up her mind to become a student again. Mamta decided to walk into a classroom after 18 long years! Moreover, she found out that the Math tutor in the program was a classmate of her husband. Hence, she believed in his feedback that this program would be useful to her.   

Mamta was fortunate that her husband supported her decision to study further. However, her in-laws were not happy. “They expected me to do all the household chores, to which I assured them that I would complete everything but use the rest of the time for my studies”, she said. “My day used to start at 4 in the morning, and I used to complete all the household chores by afternoon. Despite this hectic schedule, I always was the first person to be present at the centre for classes” she said.
As the days progressed, she became more confident, and her interactions with the girls and women in the batch increased. There were many young girls in her class, and it was difficult to bond with them as fellow batch mates. But the aim of learning helped her overcome those difficulties. However, she admits that she learned a lot of things from them. “Girls these days are more confident, and they express themselves better! During my time, it was never possible. People like me should learn from them”, she said.

Mamta’s efforts paid off, and she topped her batch with a score of 65%. She continued her studies till the 12th grade as she had developed an aspiration to work at an Anganwadi. During these years she also counselled many other women in her village and neighbouring villages and inspired them to get back to studies and complete their 10th grade.  As an acknowledgement of her services, she got a certificate from the Member of Parliament, Ms Najma Heptullah.   

Women like Mamta are indeed an inspiration to many others around them!

Monday, April 23, 2018

The magic of Science

2:50:00 PM

14-year-old Anubhav Bagh is an all-rounder. He stood first in his school in drawing and secured the second position in his class in academics. And to add to these achievements, he came second at the block-level running competition! But apart from all these feathers added to his cap, there is one thing that Anubhav enjoys the most, and that is Science!

Anubhav hails from the Bankbija village in the Sonepur district of Orissa. This district is one of the 250 most backward districts of the country, and like the majority of the people here, his family earns its living by working as labourers.  So how did young Anubhav develop an inclination towards Science?

“My son was interested in Science since he was in 5th grade”, Janaki Bagh, Anubhav’s mother recalls. “He used to open our radio box, play with the wires and spent a lot of time probing them”, she says with a smile.


When we enter Anubhav’s house, we find that a small corner is reserved for Abhinav’s models. Apart from the models, we can see some wires; a couple of switches, plug points, bulbs and the place looks like a small laboratory. His family members greet us and tell us about themselves. Anubhav’s brother, the breadwinner for the family, works as an agriculture labourer. Despite the fluctuation in the income, the family happily supports Anubhav in his experiments. This support and encouragement have allowed him to dream of a career working with machines and creating something new.

But there is one person in the house who has always helped Anubhav in his experiments. And that person is his niece – Karishma Bagh.  

Karishma goes to the neighbouring households and collects bulbs, wires, small gadgets, machines etc. from them. “Do not throw these things; instead give them to us”, she tells them.  And once Anubhav creates something out of this material, she happily shows the models to them. “I feel delighted when I see the completed model. It’s like magic!” she says.  

However, since the past few months, Anubhav has begun to use the Tablet, and the scientific content in the ‘PraDigi’ App installed in the Tablet keeps him busy and engaged. He has conducted a few experiments and made a few models by referring the videos in the App. “The tablet has widened his range of experiments. Some models which he thought were difficult seem doable now”, his mother said.

Now in 8th grade, Anubhav wants to volunteer at the Library Program next year and explain his projects to every participant from the program.


Pratham Education Foundation

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