The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) was launched by the government of India in 2004 with the objective of building residential schools for out-of-school girls in marginalized communities. CARE India collaborated with the government to improve educational processes in these schools including, but not limited to, teacher development, institutional strengthening, material and curriculum development and monitoring and evaluation. Over 2000 girls in 24 districts of Uttar Pradesh have benefited from this programme.
Two such girls, Samreen Fatma and Kiran Gautam, age 12 and 11 respectively, study at KGBV in Jarwal, Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh, India. At first glance, it is hard to fathom the unique bond that they share, but a closer look at their lives dotted with challenges, and you begin to understand that a sense of accomplishment is what ties these two bright girls together.
Kiran grew up with 7 siblings in Rasoolpur village, where her father is a labourer. Like most others in the village, her parents are uneducated. In 2009, CARE representatives visited her family and counseled them about the benefits of educating their daughters. They explained the various facilities available at the residential school, and urged them to send Kiran there to study. While her father was relatively easier to persuade, her mother was adamant in her opposition to the idea. “My father understood that education was the only way my siblings and I could escape our impoverished condition someday. But my mother was concerned about sending me so far away. She wanted me to help with daily household chores instead”, recalls Kiran. Eventually though, her mother was convinced and she was enrolled into grade 6 at the KGBV school. Two years later, Kiran has grown into an inquisitive and brilliant student, one that her peers often turn to for guidance and support. She enjoys all subjects thoroughly and feels fortunate to be a part of the first generation of educated girls in her family.
Samreen had already been studying at the school for a year when Kiran joined. It had been a year of transformation for this mischievous, fun-loving girl, but also one of perseverance. In her initial months at the school, Samreen had proven to be a difficult student. Her lack of interest in studies was apparent, and she yearned to return to her village where she could play in the fields with her 6 siblings. Despite her resistance, the teachers at the school recognized immense potential in her and worked hard to help her settle into her new environment. Over time, Samreen grew closer to her teachers and peers, and began taking more initiative. Reflecting on the past 3 years, her teacher Ms. Fahmeeda Khatoon says “We’ve seen the stubborn and unhappy Samreen transform into the mature and cheerful girl she is now. Today, she is an active part of the food and discipline committees of the school, and she takes her responsibilities very seriously. Being ambitious, diligent and polite, she has earned the love and respect of her peers and juniors, especially Kiran who looks up to her.”
With an air of confidence and pride, Samreen adds “There is a world of difference between who I was 3 years ago and who I am today. I remember being gripped by fear and anxiety when I was made to join school. The very thought of studying seemed dreadful. Today, I’m so accustomed to this way of life that I can’t imagine living any other way. I like being punctual, sticking to my daily schedule and keeping my surroundings clean. I enjoy studying and am thrilled to be able to communicate my thoughts and feelings through writing, something that was unimaginable a few years ago. It wasn’t easy, but my teachers’ faith in me has helped me achieve all that I have. I know I have a long way to go, and someday I hope to become a doctor and make my parents proud.”
Many other girls like Samreen and Kiran, live together at these residential schools. Apart from gaining an upper primary education, they are taught important life skills life self-confidence, critical and practical thinking etc. The teachers work tirelessly to create an environment that is conducive for the girls’ development, and are greatly instrumental in helping them realise their potential and nurture new dreams. “It saddens me that these wonderful and competent girls are denied the chance to study in so many cases. The realization that these 3 years can change their lives motivates us to provide them with the best opportunities to grow and excel. I wish them all the best for their future, one that I am confident will be bright”, concludes Ms. Fahmeeda.