Nov 23, 2014

Education to Turn Mirrors into Windows

Roshni smiling to her dreams

Reshma Bai is just an ordinary rural woman and mother of Roshni. She makes an honest, if simple living, rolling beedies (country cigarettes). She lives in a plain mud hut in Rae Bareli district of Uttar Pradesh, Her home is dilapidated, and when it rains, the roof leaks, creating little puddles all over the floor.

Reshma, rolls 500 beedies a day. For this unhealthy and mind-numbing work she gets paid a mere twenty rupees, which is not even enough to buy a loaf of bread.

Reshma Bai harbours a secret wish. Not for herself, but for her daughter, Roshni.

“I pay Rs. 50 a month for electricity,” she says, “ so that my daughter Roshni can study at night. Roshni wants to be a doctor. Even my son, who is three years older than Roshni, has sacrificed his education so that he can support us by working in a sweatshop, stitching clothes. I hope one day he will be able to go back to school.”

Roshni says “I want to be a Doctor but I don’t know if my parents can afford to. I would like to snatch away the basket of beedies from my ammi (mother) and ask her not to roll them. I want to stop my brother stitching cloths and go to school. He is older to me and had sacrificed his studies to support my ammi”.

Abbu never bothers to give money at home. Roshni chokes, when she says “Abbu (father) got annoyed when I asked for a notebook.” I don’t want to be home. I like to stay at the school. He works when he feels like. He is a daily laborer.

“It scares me, when I imagine where I would be if I don’t study and learn.

My school is my safe place. It gives me safety. It keeps me away from gossips and help me learn new things”.

She would like to travel outside her community, meet new people, share new information and begin to live anew. It might take a long time, but its something only she is hoping to do.

“When I come back from school I spend some time with my brothers helping them with their homework. I sweep, I cook and I stitch to help my mother in her chores.”

Roshni is grateful to her teacher, Pooja, who is a community worker at Lokmitra. She has helped her learn to read, write, do simple math, and learn practical life skills including health, hygiene, nutrition, stitching and income—generating activities. We work often in groups, which has enabled us to learn team work and problem-solving—and create strong friendships with the other girls.

I feel this has brought great courage and strength in most of the girls

“Today, I can read letters and the newspaper. I know how to keep myself healthy. I am not afraid to ask questions. I help the smaller, younger girls adjust to others and going to school.”

"Teachers here encourage me to ask many questions. They teach us with patience, and make us feel like they really care about what happens to us. I learn how to take care of my body, eat properly, and grow vegetables for better nutrition. Now I know for sure, that one day, I can be a doctor.”

“I see that educated people particularly women have more respect in society”

There are many Roshnis all over India today; all waiting for an opportunity to serve their people and their communities as doctors, teachers, social workers and nurses.

Lokmitra is promoting educational rights of children like Roshni, by engaging with elementary education system of Uttar Pradesh in multi pronged and multi level manner, to generate ideas and practices that would promote systematic improvement.

Lokmitra became part of new mobilization initiated by Oxfam to bring donors operating in the state to work collectively for Right to education. School Management committees are formed to address the relationship between teachers and students and to promote learning opportunities for girls.

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