Mankaki village head (standing) and "Uncle" Suraj
This September 4 we met with our 58 Blossom Bus riders, their parents and the heads of five villages at Mankaki school in Hathin block, Mewat for a community Sports Day to celebrate the impact of education. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and the sports activities were rained out, but those present took the opportunity to gather and discuss the wonderful benefit of the Blossom Bus project and their hopes for the future of girls’ education in Mewat.
The families told us that the Blossom Bus is now well known throughout Mewat, and it would easily be filled by girls from every village if we could meet the demand. The village head of Mankaki shared his gratitude for what he called a “trend-setter service” which he believes will change the face of Mewat. (Mankaki is the home of our beneficiary Anjum, who wrote a stunning manifesto of women’s rights a few months ago.)
Parents and village heads alike spoke about how important the project is for girls who never thought they would go to school past grade 8, since parents consider it unsafe for their daughters to walk four to five kilometers to neighboring villages where the only secondary schools are available. Project Manager Suraj Kumar (affectionately called “Uncle” in the villages) acknowledged the support of all the villagers, and thanked them for the tremendous faith and trust they showed in our staff.
Suraj also took the opportunity to discuss more broadly the Right to Education Act of 2009, effective April 1, 2010, which guarantees free quality education for all Indian children up to grade 8. He asked those present to raise demand for school transport, which should rightly be provided by the government to girls so that their right to education can be realized.
This fall, we will be expanding to provide bus transportation to 100 young women on five buses to attend secondary school. The villagers and Blossom Bus riders agreed that girls now studying in grade 9 and 10 are the first in their villages to reach these grades – and that prior to the project they could not have achieved this dream in a district which posted a 2 percent female literacy rate in India's 2001 census.
The 58 Blossom Bus riders were given school bags and uniforms, as were 40 other girls from Mankaki village for encouragement. All children present were given sweets, a rare treat, as a token of appreciation for their participation. Our warmest and sincerest thanks to each and every one of you, who have helped bring this remarkable project to life.
Arastun, a rider featured in our July report
The first girls in grade 10 wanted their own photo