Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Sunday, March 07, 2010

THE bunch of girls

in nov/dec 2002, i entered into jari mari in kurla west, mumbai.
i was accompanying a resolute young lady, neha, into the girls' school she was managing.
that day was a life-changer.
i was entering Sahyog Girls' School - The School Without Walls.
the community-based school that aimed to re-school adolescent girls who had dropped out of formal school.

i walked into a computer-center (masquerading as a classroom) to meet the 4 teachers.
4 real dynamo women. raging with determination to make a difference and high ownership of the school. my life was changed from then on.
i was going to teach them english, but in reality, i became their student.
this once-a-week interaction with them over a year allowed me to into their lives and their school.

simultaneously, from dec 2002 to april 2003, i taught a group of girls appearing for their Std 10 NIOS exams.
the subject was Maths.
the medium of instruction was Hindi.
time available was 4 hours every saturday.

daunting as it seems now, i was in my late 20s then and was still blessed with energy and a boyish eagerness.
i went about the task with gusto and was certain that a few of the girls will make it through (at least 1 in 3).
talk about misguided enthusiasm and forecast accuracy. 100% tanked and by a significant margin. devastated as i was, the girls did not seem overly affected by the decimation. they were far more balanced than i was over how things had turned out!
neha, being the sensible analyst, re-calibrated my thinking into proper perspective, "look here. till you started teaching, maths scared the dupattas off them. but they have managed to overcome that fear, take the exam with confidence and deal with the failure with reasonable equanimity. is this not a significant achievement?"

in these 9 years, i have drawn massive inspiration from the girls.
in these 9 years, Sahyog has almost made itself redundant, i.e., within a decade, most adolescent girls in that community are continuing in formal school; reversing/correcting the earlier drop out trend.
claiming only a small part of the credit for this transformation, Sahyog's teachers, alumni and graduates have fuelled the desire and ambition in the girls to inspire them to continue their education, overcoming parental and other opposition.

Sahyog has won the Edelgive Social Innovation Honours 2010 award for the education category.

this post should have been written several years ago.
the awards have triggered this sub-conscious decadal story.

neha, the teachers, the alumni, the students.
THE bunch of girls.

1 comment:

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

they are all incredible. this is just awesome! so damn inspiring...