Thursday, October 19, 2023

Rescuing Dreams: An i-Saksham fellow rekindles hope by bringing girls back to school in Bihar's remote and difficult areas

    Pooja, who joined MAITRI as a fellow, an initiative by Educate Girls implemented on the ground by i-Saksham on September 21, 2022, realized that despite the news headlines showcasing girls advancing and achieving new heights, rural India remains quite distant from the mainstream. Pooja, residing in the Amas block of Gaya, holds a bachelor's degree. When Pooja conducted surveys in 30-40 villages, she uncovered the harsh reality that girls were far from receiving an education. Many times, the girls themselves were reluctant to attend school. Pooja has so far visited 20 schools, facilitating the enrollment of over 100 girls. However, this journey was far from easy.

    n the primary school in the Amas block, there were two twin sisters who had been away from school for several years. It was as if they had never seen a school in their village. After conversing with their parents, Pooja collected all the necessary documents. However, the headmaster of the school denied the enrollment, as he considered the survey to lack legitimacy.

    During that same time, Pooja persuaded the Block Education Officer (BEO) and informed him that pressure was being exerted on her to not enroll children in school. After that, the BEO himself spoke to Pooja, saying that she could not compel anyone to enroll children in these schools. After all of this, Pooja had nothing in sight as to what she could do next. Nevertheless, she went back after a week, and with great persistence, she managed to enroll the twin sisters.

During the survey in villages to identify unenrolled girls, people often asked her various questions, such as, "Will this get us money?" or "What's the use of sending girls to school? They could be helping at home and earning some income." She was also inquired about i-Saksham and why she was conducting the survey.  Although many criticized her, seeing young girls doing household chores and working, Pooja couldn't help but think that if she didn't raise her voice and connect these girls with education, the situation would remain the same for generations to come. Denying girls an education would mean they could never voice their thoughts and stand against injustice. 

Pooja narrated the story of a village in the Amas block, where she met the mother of a girl who did not want to send her daughter to school. The mother was skeptical about the importance of education, as she had never received one. Pooja explained to her, "You don't understand the significance of education, that's why you're saying this. If you were educated, you would also send your daughter to school. But since you didn't receive an education, you're denying your daughter the same opportunity. When she grows up, she will impart the same lesson to her child, and she won't educate her either." After hours of explanation, the mother finally agreed to enroll her daughter in school. Nevertheless, when it came to gathering the necessary documents for admission, Pooja faced a challenge. Some documents were missing. In such a situation, Pooja took it upon herself to assist the girl's family in creating all the required documents, ultimately enabling the girl's enrollment.