Devyani goes back to school

Devyani goes back to school

Ten-year-old Devyani* very nearly dropped out of school. Had it not been for Oxfam India and Samerth’s effort, her education would have come to an abrupt end. 

Though Devyani’s parents were keen on sending their daughter to school, they had to pull her out. To reach her school, Devyani needed to cross a rivulet in the forest, which often swelled in the rainy season making it dangerous for a young child like herself. Moreover, she had no company as most of the children her age had dropped out. She was studying in class three. Fearing for her safety, her parents discontinued her school. 

Devyani belongs to the Baiga community, a tribal community categorized as the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG). The Baigas’ have one of the lowest literacy rates in the country. She lives with her parents — Batasia and Sammemal — in a picturesque, yet remote village Chhinda in Chhattisgarh’s Kabirdham district. Her parents rely on forest resources to earn their living; they collect and sell fallen dry firewood to nearby markets. Batasia and Sammemal support the family with the meagre amount of money they earn from selling firewood. Though Devyani’s parents were sending her to school despite financial constraints, they could not afford to miss work and accompany her to school.
 
Devyani was the only girl from her village who went to school. Children like her, living in remote villages, often face hurdles in continuing their education. They have to walk through forests or deserted paths to reach school and safety concerns usually restricts them from going to school. Moreover, their parents barely earn enough to feed their families. In such situations, education often takes a backseat.

In Chhattisgarh, Oxfam India and its partner Samerth are working towards ensuring children from these marginalised communities continue their education and eventually reduce inequality in education. Oxfam India also works towards mobilising School Management Committees to ensure that children are admitted in schools, learning material is provided and infrastructure improved. Through the project, Oxfam India reaches out to community members — parents, teachers, students — and holds meetings and awareness programmes on the importance of education, the RTE Act, and on the issue of caste-based discrimination. 

READ HOW OXFAM INDIA COUNSELLED AJAY'S PARENTS IN ODISHA TO LET HIM CONTINUE HIS EDUCATION

During one such community meeting at the village, the team came to know of Devyani’s plight. Oxfam India and Samerth held meetings with Batasia and Sammemal to understand the reasons for her dropping out of school. The parents were willing but afraid to send her alone into the forest. Shrimati, from Samerth, met the other parents in the village and persuaded them to send their children to school as well.
 
A few meetings later, three more parents were convinced to send their children to school. Devyani finally had company and she no longer had to walk alone, through the forest, to school. She has now taken admission in class four. 

Not only did Devyani’s dilemma help bring other children back to school, it also made the community realise the importance of education and the role it can play in shaping their children’s future. Oxfam India and Samerth are working towards the proper implementation of the RTE Act, so that children like Devyani can continue their education and build a brighter future.  

Support now to help more children like Devyani continue their education.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Text by Prakash Gardia. Prakash is a Programme Coordinator, Programmes and Advocacy, in Chhattisgarh, Oxfam India.


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