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
Zainab uses her smartphone to access her education