As is often the case with prospective Udaan students and their parents, Join My Village field staff initially had a hard time convincing Wasima’s parents to send her to Udaan in 2013. Wasima’s father, Atti Mohommad an uneducated labourer, could not see any benefit of sending his eldest child and only daughter to a residential school instead of keeping her at home to help her mother with household chores and look after her two younger brothers.
Today he has a completely different feeling about education.
The year 2014 ended for Wasima’s parents on a happy note as they travelled along with her to the state of Rajasthan to receive a trophy being awarded to her when she was named a ‘Brand Ambassador’ for the Bal Swachhta Mission for the state of Haryana. This honor was bestowed on her at an event she attended with her Udaan classmates and teachers where she was hand-picked by a government official to be a champion for girls’ education in India [read the full story here. Her parents didn’t know what it would mean for their daughter to serve in this role but were thrilled to learn that her education will be funded by the government in appreciation for her service.
Since Udaan was started here, this is the first time that nearly 70% of the girls are back after the winter break on the second day itself.
Udaan camp coordinator Poonam tells me what a huge transformation this young girl has undergone since receiving the honor. “When she came to Udaan, she used to barely speak and was very shy whereas now you can see how different she is! She is a very inquisitive person now and has a deep desire to become something. She is inspired to have a better life. After getting this title she has become more sincere and dedicated to her studies”, says Poonam.
I haven’t seen Poonam so happy before, and even her eyes reflect a special shine so I ask her what the reason is behind this new aura. She tells me, with happiness and gratitude, “Since Udaan was started here, this is the first time that nearly 70% of the girls are back after the winter break on the second day itself.”
Typically, only around 30% of the girls return to school on their own when the school reopens. Poonam and the other teachers usually spend the first few days of the school term going to each one of their student’s homes to bring them back because the parents always find reasons to discontinue their daughters’ education. However, this time with the knowledge of Wasima’s experience, parents in the community have willingly sent their girls to continue studying here. The recognition Wasima received seems to have validated the importance of the Udaan education and now they too believe that their own daughters have a bright future.
I ask Wasima, who tells me she wants to be a teacher, to reflect on how this opportunity has impacted her. “I am a changed person. I am less mischievous and more responsible now,” she says, with a newfound confidence. I don’t disagree with her but I also can’t deny that even now amongst all the other girls residing at Udaan she continues to be the most chirpy and full-of-life student in the school!