It is said that change is the only permanent thing in the world. That is, until you reach the Karahal block in the Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh, India. Time has stood still here. The tribal community of Karahal is adversely affected by abysmal poverty, complete lack of health facility, malnutrition, lack of livelihood resources, water shortage and high rate of under five mortality. The village health centres are defunct and schools have poor infrastructure and education facilities. In this village girls are not given the opportunity to study, in fact 80 per cent of the girls here are out of school either because they have to look after younger siblings or contribute to the household income, or married off by the young age of 13. The region has the lowest literacy rate in the entire state which stands at below 20%.
In spite of these harsh and unfavorable circumstances many young girls, who are part of the project, ”Nanhi Kali – for the girl child”, are driven to bring about a change. Bhavna is one such teenage girl from a remote village of Chainpura in the Karahal block of Sheopur district who with determined eyes says, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up and treat the people of my village”
A first generation learner, Bhavna was not keen to attend school. Her parents’ poor financial condition made it difficult for her to attend school or complete basic education, let alone think of a career or financial independence. The parents are agricultural laborers with a monthly income of merely INR 1500. They had been farmers for generations and it was beyond anyone’s imagination to be anything else. They are a family of four who live in a thatched house made of mud which leaks rain water during monsoons. Though herself a juvenile, Bhavna is adept at cooking, fetching water and caring for babies. She looks after her baby sister while her parents go out for work. She could thus hardly get any time to come to school.
That is, till she became a Nanhi Kali. As part of the Nanhi kali program she received support in the form of a material kit which comprised of uniforms, school bag, shoes socks etc. to enable her to go to school with dignity. Apart from this, she receives academic support through a 1-2 hour class conducted before or after school hours called the Academic Support Centre, where concepts in Maths, Science and Language are taught to bridge the gaps in learning and enable children to attain grade specific competency levels. The teaching methodology includes the extensive use of innovative teaching tools and activities such as storytelling, group games etc which make learning not only meaningful but also fun. The Nanhi Kali team also works with the parents and community to sensitize them on not only gender equity but also issues related to adolescent health & hygiene.
Bhavna is now the first proud member of her family to learn how to read and write. Not only has she maintained her attendance in school but Bhavna has also proved herself in her studies. From 42% in 2008-2009, her learning levels improved to 75% in 2011-2012. Through the project we hope to reach out to many more girls like Bhavna and give them the opportunity to obtain quality e4ducation.
The importance of Girl Child Education cannot be stressed more. Education enhances lives. It ends the generational cycles of poverty and disease and provides the means for sustainable development. A high quality basic education will better equip girls with knowledge and skills needed to adopt healthy lifestyles, and to take an active role in social, economic, and political decision-making as they transition to adolescence and adulthood. We believe education will also radically change the perception towards girl children from being considered as a burden today, to becoming potential leaders and building blocks of the society. This only is true empowerment!