The Optimist Citizen

How this young man and his friend are bringing education to the remote community of Radhagram

I lost my parents at the early age of 10. My elder brother took care of my upbringing and education. I wanted to pursue higher education but for some reason, I had to put halt to my plans. However, my inability to receive higher education pushed me to make education accessible for the children in the community. I have come to believe that education refines a human and crafts them into a well-rounded individual.

I have been giving free tuition to boys and girls of my village but after my association with the Be A Jagrik program, I got the means to fulfil my desire to help others. And what is better than lighting up their path with education? I, along with my partner Mamta, took the challenge of spreading awareness about girls’ education in the remote locality of Radhagram. Mamta equally believes in making education accessible for all and dreams of girls in her village studying and building good lives for themselves. In the community, lack of money pulls back parents from sending their kids to school. However, if they’re able to afford it, they always prioritise educating their boys over girls. More girls drop out of schools at an early stage because of family and societal pressure. This reality had hit me hard and I wanted to do something about this. Girls are as much competent as their male counterparts to study and make a bright future for themselves. However, lack of fair treatment puts them at disadvantage. In Radhagram, it was very difficult to reach out to girls and talk. They were fearful and reluctant to express their desires. I recall the first time we went to a house and tried talking to the girl about why she isn’t studying. It surprised me to no ends when she snapped back at me and said that she doesn’t want to study. Next day, we went back again and this time, her father was not home. So she meekly shared that she does want to study but she isn’t allowed. She pleaded with me to not tell this to anyone. This broke our hearts.

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We figured out that things are not at all rosy here. It took us much effort and meticulous planning to first build trust and then have discussions. Our persistence and continuous efforts helped us in initiating conversations with parents and then girls to understand the ground reality. It was disheartening to note that many girls wanted to study further. But were disallowed to do so. Their aspirations were put to rest after their primary education. In the Dalit community, lack of money posed a major roadblock. However, there were families who were relatively better off and they still didn’t allow their girls to study. To combat these problems, we began giving free tuition classes to girls in a rented space. This led to a revolution as more girls started attending these classes. This change encouraged more parents to willingly enrol their girls in school. Gradually, the parents realised that their priority must be to listen to their children and not society. By the end, around 15 girls were enrolled back to school and both of us are immensely proud of this. I still remember how a few girls came to us and said that coming to classes everyday makes them very happy. These girls are shy, they don’t have a lot of words. But their faces said everything. Our hearts were full.

With my personal experience, I realised that education makes one a better human. Society respects an educated man and today, it needs more such men. It needs education to rid itself of perpetual evils. And educating a woman goes a long way in educating an entire generation. This idea has been my driving force behind associating with the Be A Jagrik campaign and working for girls’ education. I wish to empower more girls to pursue education out of their free will rather than being married off or burdened with household responsibilities. My active participation in the campaign has changed the course of my life. It has given me a purpose and a direction to walk towards a brighter future. As education refined me and enabled me to express myself better, I want to see girls of the community taking charge of their lives and leading their own way.

 

Sharfuddin Jeelani
De Haath Society
Participant, Be A Jagrik Phase 2

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