Educate Destitute Girls in Kolkata, India

by Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development
Educate Destitute Girls in Kolkata, India
Educate Destitute Girls in Kolkata, India
Educate Destitute Girls in Kolkata, India
Educate Destitute Girls in Kolkata, India
Priya at home
Priya at home

Priya wants to work in a bank. This is a huge ambition. Priya’s mother is illiterate and earns a few rupees making paper bags and packets. Her father has a small stationery shop attached to the house. Total household income per month is 6000 rupees. Just £64 or USD73. Priya is a bright and enthusiastic 18 year old who joined our girl sponsorship programme 3 years ago when her parents were no longer able to support her education. Since joining the programme Priya has been able to stay in school and this year passed her class XII board exams and was admitted to university to study for a Bachelor of Commerce. Girls like Priya, first generation learners from very poor backgrounds, find it very difficult to fulfil their dreams. Poverty and social pressure drive them into early marriage where they simply repeat the cycle of illiteracy, poverty and drudgery endured by their mothers. Priya is fortunate that her family share her desire to make a better life and sought out the help Priya needs.

With continued support of about £30 a month, Priya will complete her degree and then take banking exams. With a good job she will be financially independent and able to make her own life decisions. It is a priceless gift.

Thank you.

There are many many more girls like Priya who need your support. Please consider a regular donation of £30 to give another girl a chance of freedom, choice and financial independence.

Priya with her family
Priya with her family
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Meeting of undergrads and aspiring students
Meeting of undergrads and aspiring students

In May 2022 I visited our projects in Kolkata for the first time since February 2020. After the COVID lockdowns and the extensive school closures I was concerned about how the girls had coped.

In fact, thanks to your generosity we were able to supply the girls with smartphones and they have all been able to ride out the setbacks and continue with their education.

We now have a number of girls studying at university with big career ambitions. We also have a number of girls (and boys) who are working through their school exams and want to go on to university. So while I was in Kolkata we took the opportunity to bring in a group of our 16 – 18 year olds as well as some of our undergraduates for a meeting, an opportunity to share their experiences. Every one of those young people is a first generation learner from a very poor family. The girls have to resist society’s (and often their family’s) pressures to marry or to enter the workplace to supplement the family income.

The meeting was tremendously moving. One by one our undergraduate girls stood up and told the 40 assembled youngsters about their journeys. There were many tears.

Sakina told how her mother had recently died and how she is struggling to stay in college now that her biggest supporter is no longer there. She misses her mum but is determined to battle on and complete her education.

Zeenat lives in great poverty in Mallickpore a little way outside urban Kolkata. Her family is very poor but after years of struggle and thanks to your generosity she is now a qualified lawyer.

Tabassum lives alone with her mother. She is currently studying for her Masters and wants to go on and train as a teacher.  But they are very poor and her mother was working as a maidservant to support her. So Tabassum now does several hours tutoring a week so that her mother doesn’t have to do this exploitative and humiliating work.

Another girl told us her mother is so sick that she herself is going out to do her mother’s maidservant work for her – on top of her education.

The meeting was a great success, especially as Zainab had made a cake which was shared out between us all. I hope that the youngsters can get together regularly to share their experiences and encourage one another. Despite the hardships these girls endure, their resourcefulness and determination shone through. And I could see that the aspiring college students were absolutely rapt.

Your donations ensure that all the educational costs are covered. Bags, books, stationery, fees, extra tuition and any necessary nutrition and medical help. But life is terribly hard even with sponsorship – these girls are fighters and with your support will battle on.

Thank you.

Zeenat, now a qualified lawyer, shares her journey
Zeenat, now a qualified lawyer, shares her journey
Tabassum, aspiring teacher, shares experience
Tabassum, aspiring teacher, shares experience
Zainab's cake.
Zainab's cake.
Tabassum at home
Tabassum at home
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Saheen
Saheen

Saheen lives in a single room in Kolkata’s Darapara slum. She is studying in class XI at Khanna School. She is the oldest of three children. Her sister is in year VI and her brother dropped out of school aged about 10 and is a day labourer contributing about £20 a month to the household. Saheen’s father died at 36 from alcoholism. Her mother, being illiterate, is a maidservant, earning about £25 a month for long hours of highly exploitative work.  Saheen’s family is not unusual.  The real hope for Saheen and the rest of the family is education. Thanks to this programme and her sponsor, Saheen is being supported through the final years of school and, she hopes, into college.  She loves to play football and to dance.  

Saheen has only recently joined this sponsorship programme and we really hope she does well. She is certainly determined.

It has been a terribly difficult two years for our 20 girls. Schools in West Bengal were closed altogether for 9 months from March 20 until January 21 and then again for a further 5 months from May to November 2021. And the schools closed again for all of January 2022. But they are now open again and there are high hopes that school children and college students can resume their education in person.  

We were able to support the girls by providing smartphones to those who had no other means of contacting their teachers or accessing online education. For the younger girls, their teachers delivered schoolwork to their homes and phoned the parents to check up on the families. Our staff, Shreya and Aamna kept a close eye on the girls, encouraging them to keep working.  Most of the families, already very poor, suffered financially. Many parents lost their jobs and are now only just surviving on daily wages.

With your help we were able to provide food rations to every family and we continue to do so for those who still need it.        

We are especially proud of our 5 college students who have battled on throughout this difficult time. Zeenat is close to qualifying as a lawyer. Tabassum, Shehnaz and Sabahat all plan to be teachers. And Ayesha, who is a very good artist, wants to be a web designer. These girls will soon be educated, independent and the pride of their families.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ayesha wants to be a graphic designer
Ayesha wants to be a graphic designer
Zainab studying
Zainab studying
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Zainab
Zainab

Kolkata’s schools have been closed for over 12 of the last 18 months. For a girl from a poor family, like Zainab, this could have been catastrophic. Across India girls have dropped out of education and ended up in child labour or married off.

Even in the good times, just getting to school has been difficult for Zainab. She lives in a single room with her parents and 2 younger brothers. Her father drives a 3-wheeled auto-rickshaw and often comes in late at night. So it is hard for the children to get enough sleep to be ready for school in the morning. It is easy to fall behind and end up dropping out.

During lockdown, the children have had to study at home, overseen by their parents, both of whom are illiterate.  Fortunately for Zainab, who is sponsored under this project, she received a smartphone which has enabled her to continue her studies online. She is a hard working and determined girl and this year she passed her class X board exam (GCSE equivalent) and graduated to class XI. She aspires to a college education.

The family has really struggled throughout the pandemic: Zainab’s father couldn’t work at all during the first lockdown and when he does work he earns very little as he rents the auto-rickshaw.  Zainab’s mother is engaged in highly exploitative piecework sticking plastic jewels on slippers. She earns around Rs50 a day (£0.50). It is to avoid this that Zainab is studying.

During the pandemic we delivered emergency food rations to all our sponsored girls’ families. Shreya and Aamna, the programme co-ordinators, kept in touch with the girls and ensured that everything was done to keep the girls safe, in education and still focussed on a better future.

Thanks to all our wonderful donors and sponsors (including Jean who has sponsored Zainab for several years) for your continued support. It is absolutely priceless for these girls.

There are 18 girls on this programme, all from poor families existing on very low daily wages. Our aim is to offer these girls a better future through education.  It costs about £27 a month to provide the books, stationery, uniform, shoes, fees, medical expenses, extra nutrition and the use of our very own girls’ library and computer centre in the heart of their community. When it is possible we bring the girls in for fun activities, awareness sessions and counselling.

Suhana receives emergency rations
Suhana receives emergency rations
We held a drawing competition
We held a drawing competition
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Sabahat with her year 1 pass certificate
Sabahat with her year 1 pass certificate

I worry a lot about our sponsored girls. Schools have been closed for most of the last 15 months. Their parents are struggling to find the money to feed their families because they have been unable to work during lockdown.  In families where the children are first generation learners, the motivation to keep studying under these circumstances is liable to fade.

Our programme leaders, Shreya and Aamna, have worked very hard to keep the girls going.  We have ensured all those who have access to classes online have smartphones and we have done everything we can to support those who don’t. Many of the smaller girls collect assignments from their teachers and return them completed to the school. Not perfect – but better than nothing.

Last time I was in India, February 2020, just before the pandemic hit India, I met up with most of the girls on this programme.  I have always admired Sabahat and her mother. Sabahat’s mother, though illiterate herself, is desperately keen for her daughter to get a good education. And all had been going well: the girl completed her class 12 and went off to Victoria College, part of Calcutta University, to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree.  When we met last year, however, Sabahat had failed her first year twice. We had a long discussion and tried to understand what was going wrong. It seemed she lacked confidence and motivation. She was not attending her lectures and classes as often as she should. Youngsters from impoverished backgrounds can feel very intimidated in the hustle and bustle of university life. The majority of the students are confident, often privately educated and middle class. Sabahat is a simple girl from the slum. We asked her to take a couple of days to decide where she wanted to go and how to get there.  She came back the next day and promised that she absolutely was determined to get her degree so that she could become a teacher. She would renew her efforts.

I am very happy to report today that she has now passed her first year and is proceeding with her year 2 studies. I am so proud of her.  For a youngster from such a deprived background a very special effort is required and she has really put in the effort. Perhaps remote learning has helped her but most of all it is her determination. She is also helping out her family by earning a little money from tutoring. One day, I’m quite sure, she will be the qualified teacher she hopes to become, helping to lead other girls away from early marriage, illiteracy and drudgery and into a brighter future.

This programme provides each beneficiary with the tuition fees, the books, the uniform, medical expenses and any other essential items to enable them to remain in education. During the pandemic your contributions are also helping to provide the neediest families with food rations and any medical help they might need. But perhaps the most important intervention is the guidance, encouragement and counselling the girls receive from Shreya and Aamna and the other staff at Tiljala SHED.

Your contributions are working very hard indeed to keep girls like Sabahat on track. Thank you very much on behalf of them all.

Ayesha wants to be a criminal lawyer
Ayesha wants to be a criminal lawyer
Zainab uses her smartphone to access her education
Zainab uses her smartphone to access her education
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Organization Information

Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development

Location: Kolkata, West Bengal - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @TiljalaSHED
Project Leader:
Jane Manson
Kolkata, India
$63,373 raised of $100,000 goal
 
829 donations
$36,627 to go
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