Shivani ki Kahani
With the change in policy and a lot of awareness, the trend has changed for children studying in rural areas. Now I see girls coming to school, but when I joined as an assistant teacher, it was a task to bring children to school, especially girls. In Haryana and other states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the parents believed and still believe that the girls have better duties to perform than studying, such as taking care of her family, cooking, or cleaning and eventually getting married off into another family. Besides, the parents even believed that education is only for the boys – as they are the bread earners of the house, and it’ll be a waste of money to send girls to school, instead that girls must stay at home and help their mother with home-related tasks.
Most of the girls who came to school dropped out eventually after completing a grade or two, or some who completed schooling till Grade 8 would not pursue education further as there was no government school nearby and the only option was 50 km away. However, in my 15 years of service as a government teacher, I have never taught or even encountered a child as formidable as Shivani.
A couple of months ago, I received one of the most unexpected calls – I got a call from Shivani. She told me that she recently completed her 12th Standard with commerce as her main subject, and now she is applying for colleges at Delhi University. Of all the children who graduated from our school, she was the last person I’d expected to continue studying further, but my conversation with her that evening proved me wrong.
As a teacher, it was my responsibility to inspire and encourage students and spread awareness about education among parents and children, but hardly there were any families who’d listen to us. But Shivani was different. She joined us in grade 3, and she was with us till grade 8; and over the course of 5 years, she was made to leave school at least a dozen times, but she returned to school within a day or two. Every time she was made to leave school, I, along with one of my colleagues, visited her house to convince her parents to let her go to school as she was a smart kid – and that she could do well in her life beyond chullah and chokha.
From fighting her way into returning to school to graduating in the crème of the class year after year while also helping her mother at home and taking care of her 2 brothers, Shivani learned that the only way she’ll get to make her dreams come true is shed away the fear of patriarchy, fight for her right to study and march on with her head held up high. And that is what exactly she did.
Most of the children that come to government schools can’t afford schooling, but due to the fundamental right to education, it has become convenient for many children living in rural areas to pursue education. The policy has allowed thousands of children across the country to pursue learning at school, just like Shivani. Over our call, Shivani told me about how much it went behind convincing her parents to let her study further after Grade 8 and allow her to live with her relatives in the town. It was her strong convictions and eagerness to study and the willingness to support her family financially that made her family believe in her dream of getting a Sarkari Naukri.
Now, Shivani is pursuing B.com from a reputed college in Delhi University. Her story has really inspired me to help other girl children studying in our school and keep them motivated to make a career for themselves instead of getting stuck in the patriarchal norms of society. I am proud of Shivani, and I hope that she stays well during this pandemic and study and keep working hard towards achieving her dream of getting a government job.
(The writer is a teacher with Govt. School, Khara Kheri, Fatehbad, Haryana. Views expressed are her personal. The name of the child has been changed to protect her identity.)