Social Matter 1- Girl Child Education
Am I the one who will do great things? Am I the one who will change the world? Maybe I will, Maybe I won’t. But who are they to decide that for me.
How do they know that I was only made to cook, clean, and look after the family. Maybe I was born to read, write, and teach. Maybe I was born to become a doctor, a scientist, a sportsperson, or maybe just a wife or mother.
Even if I was born to be a mother, does that give them the right to take away my education from me? Who will teach my kids? Who will push them to make the right use to education?
Let me share a story with you –
When Sunita was a kid, her amma Radha let her brother go to a private English school. After all, he was going to pull them out of poverty. He was going to get a good job and bring home money. They sent Sunita to a Government school, she didn’t mind. She learnt all that she could. Her teachers used to say that she was a very bright kid, gifted also. She believed them and strived to do her best.
When she would come home from school, her amma would ask her to help with cooking or cleaning, she didn’t mind. After all work was work and amma was old, helping her was fun. However, Sunita always wondered why amma never asked her brother Chotu to help. He always had so much time to play and complete his homework after school. Sunita finished her homework late in the night under the backyard lamp, once all the work was over.
A few years later, one fine morning, she was getting dressed to go to school. Just then, amma came to her and said, “You can’t go to the school anymore.” Sunita was perplexed, she thought maybe something happened to the school. She naively asked, “ Why Amma, did something happen to the school, is everything okay?”. Amma just gave her a blank look and said, “I need someone to help me with my cleaning job. I have taken up 3 more households, it will help us make more money.”
Sunita explained that she could easily do both, study and help her with the cleaning job. She said with a smile, “I can help you with the 3 households early and then run to school, okay amma.” Amma hesitated, but agreed. It became very tiring to help amma with the work and keep up with the school, but Sunita knew she had no other option. Chotu was also growing up, he was in the 7th grade now and it was getting hard to keep up with his school expenses, even though they had some support from the local NGO, which helped with textbooks, notebooks, stationery, and study materials.
Suddenly, the three households became six households, and six became nine. Sunita had to quit school once she finished the 10th grade. She had to shift school for the 11th and 12th grade and the higher secondary education wasn’t completely free, there was a little fee that they had to pay. Sunita’s arguments and pleads were not working this time. It was either her education or Chotu’s. Her amma argued, “Look how well Chotu is doing, how can he leave his school now. You’re doing so well with the cleaning job. We are finally making enough money, forget about this school thing now. Don’t you think you’ve studied enough?”
She knew she couldn’t say anything that would change her amma’s mind, after all they needed all the money they could. Radha worked as a maid, because she couldn’t find any other job, she had only studied till Class 6. It was either the construction job or the cleaning job, and the cleaning job made her enough money to run the house. Some of the ladies around our house were 12th graduates and could read and write decent English, they secured jobs in the nearby factories and companies, Radha tried, but they wouldn’t take her.
A year or so later, Radha and Sunita were cooking. It was a particularly breezy evening, Radha was relaxed and was in a good mood. She was singing, her voice was very low though, hardly audible. Sunita asked her, “Amma what’s that you’re singing?” Radha stopped suddenly and said, “Oh nothing, just something I overheard the kids sing when I was working yesterday. I could only understand a few words, but I caught the tune.” Sunita asked her to sing the tune for her. At first she was shy, but then she sang it. Sunita recognized it immediately. She was singing “1,2 buckle my shoe, 3,4 shut the door..” She told her amma what the rhyme mean.
Radha smiled and said, “When I was a kid we didn’t have these kind of nursery rhymes, we sang songs about the flag, our country, and the fields.” She even sang a few for Sunita. When she was done, Sunita asked her what all did she study when she was a kid. She said that they only learnt the English alphabets in the 4th std, she really liked them and always paid more attention in school, but she couldn’t study after the 6th grade. Her appa, Sunita’s nana, got very sick and had to leave his mechanic’s job. Her amma had to find odd construction jobs and she had to stay home to cook, clean, and look after her appa and her brothers. A few years later, her appa passed and her amma got her married when she was just 15. She never taught about studying again, that was not her life, so she didn’t see the point in being sad about it. As Radha finished her story, Sunita saw that her eyes were welling up, but she quickly wiped it with her saree. Sunita went and gave her a hug and told her, “It’s okay amma, I understand what it feels like.” And they continued to talk and cook.
That night when Sunita went to bed, she had a dream. In her dream, she was given a magic book. When she opened that book, she dived into a magical world, where she could keep reading, writing, studying and learning. No one stopped her and she didn’t stop for anyone. When she was done learning as much as she wanted to, she passed on her magic book to her friend Neelima. Neelima also wanted to study, but her appa got her married when she finished the 10th grade. When Neelima was done, she passed the book to Janaki, and Janaki passed it on to Meena. Slowly, the book reached all the girls in her village and the neighboring village, and from there it travelled the entire length and breadth of the world, spreading knowledge to every little girl who had a thirst for it.
That was her dream, but sadly, it wasn’t her life, so she woke up and went to work with amma. She’s still waiting for her magic book.
Let’s help her and several others like her experience the world of education. Next time, you encounter a girl child who is denied her education, speak up and try to understand why she was denied education. Help if you can. If you can’t refer them to organizations that can help. There are several organizations that help impoverished families with education and similar needs. if monetary help is not possible, volunteer and give your time. Any help is enough help.
Education for Him. Education for Her. Education for All.
Let’s talk about this problem a little more whenever we can. Why do people deny education to the girl child? Certainly not every parent is evil. Like Sunita’s Amma socio-economic conditions of a family plays a strong role. I’d love to hear more from you guys about what you think drives families to cut a girl child’s education. I know of fairly modern families that send their girl to college just so that heir wedding cards can say that she is educated, is that worthy education at all? Let’s talk about some solutions too. What systems are in place currently, what can be improved, and how can we help?