Going to School With Pushpa

“I wake up each morning looking forward to another day at school,” says Pushpa, a lively 10 years-old from the village of Kumiapalli, Orissa. “Our teacher tells us about a lot of new things that I had no idea about. It’s as if she is opening up new windows for me to look out through. Me and my friends have

a lot of fun too! ” she exclaims.

Till a few months ago, Pushpa, like many of the girls in her village, was spending the entire day in household chores, helping her mother and looking after her younger siblings. Since most of her teachers were absent from class, one third of the students had dropped out of schooling altogether. “I found it difficult to understand what was being taught in school, and the midday meal was not very good either, so I had stopped going to school,” she explains.
Now, the change is there for everyone to see. Pushpa is not only eager to go to school every day, but is certain that she will complete her schooling.
This change has been made possible through a CRY and ADHAR initiative. Adults were brought together in groups to talk about and demand action on the quality of the local school. Everyone agreed that the school had a shortage of teachers. They decided to demand new teachers from the local government officials. In the meantime, an educated girl from the village was appointed as a teacher. Using participative learning methods, she helped in creating a model village school.

Today, there are two teachers in the school. 85 children have enrolled themselves this year. Not a single child under 14 is out of school in Kumiapalli. Two new classrooms are now sanctioned for the school next year.
Pushpa is one of the most regular students and is an active participant in her class. She loves reading books and is a keen sports enthusiast, more so since she won first prize in the regional game and sport competition organized by the local government. Her family’s economic hardships will not stop her, she says, for continuing her education. “I want to be a teacher when I grow up,” she declares proudly. The groups formed in her village will continue their work to remove the barriers of gender, caste and class from the community, to ensure equal opportunities for all children in Kumiapalli. While such stories are heart-warming, they also call to mind the fact that 50% of girls in India fails to enroll in school, those who do ar likely to drop out by the age of 12. It is only when we truly understand the nature of shackles that bind a girl’s life and prospects will we truly appreciate the effort required to make such change possible. It’s about changing hearts and minds, changing attitudes and perceptions.
And on a practical level, it is about making sure that the government system which is powered by the taxes we pay, delivers on its promises. Because if we all believe, we really can, turn India into the country of our dreams.

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