As I mentioned about intervention of mentoring cum tutoring girls for various competitive examinations in my previous blogs how I was mentoring couple of girls for various competitive entrances. In this blog, we will talk about the results and the girls who did it, despite several issues.
I still remember, a few months ago, when I was talking to our team that we have to ensure Dharini studies further after 12th. Her father was jobless then (as of now, he has started driving a truck). Dharini is only girl from her village who was doing her senior secondary education with Maths stream. After couple of meetings with her father, he gave in and gave her permission to study for exams. Eventually she did qualify the exams. After selection, the hard task was to get her a college with affordable tuition fees (a Government polytechnic). Since counselling for seat allotment started, her father used to have mood swings and my challenge was to control and navigate in right direction. One of the fear with his father’s uncertainty along with not letting her go for college was that if he did not allow Dharini, no other girl in her village would hope for better future – which is eventually goal of our intervention.
As her seat allotment came in, she was finally selected for prestigious Lucknow Polytechnic to pursue ‘Diploma in Mechanical Engineering’ (often quoted one of top 5 polytechnics across Uttar Pradesh). However, her father was struggling with payment of tuition fees along with hesitation of sending her daughter to the metro city. After quite a lot of convincing and emotional interactions, her father gave in. I also fundraised some amount for her tuition fees with the help of my cofellows and the fellowship program team. Milaan, the organisation here i work with, has decided to award her scholarships for majority of expenses. As of now, she is preparing to go to Lucknow and she will also be the first girl from her family and village to achieve this feat.
Anshika is a bright and all rounder student of our school. She is also the first of the girls to study from her otherwise conservative village when it comes to education for women. Her grandfather has been source of inspiration for me and always gave me free hand for her granddaughter’s study. As time passed, Anshika qualified the state entrance for engineering colleges. Although Anshika’s family is relatively well off compared to Dharini, her family said they will clearly not be able to pay for any private engineering college education due to high tuition fees and stereotypes around the same. As it happened, she was allotted a seat in an engineering college of Government University in Jaunpur to study electronics. As of now, she is eagerly waiting for her final results and go to her college. She will also be the one of the firsts from her family and village, Bhatpur, to achieve this feat.
This story is of Swati from Kantain village. Her elder brother came in support when I was struggling with convincing her family for this task. Eventually they also gave in. As time passed, Swati qualified for her entrance exam. As it happened, she was allotted a private medical college for pharmacy in Sharanpur of Uttar Pradesh. After discussion with family around finances and their concerns, Swati will give exam again to improve her rank.
One thing that I saw common in all these stories was sense of struggle that these girls had. 2 of them succeeded while one of them missed the mark. I have to give it to them for studying straight 10 hours a day for 2-3 months with perseverance and persistence. For example, initially when they started preparing, they were all crying due to demanding nature of questions. They were never exposed to such demanding preparations but with some motivation and guidance, they moved ahead. This is a great example of perseverance. I remember during the preparations, how I used to visit their families just to understand their ecosystem and ensuring it be cooperative at home. A big amount of gratitude should also go to their families since they also supported their girls despite their own hesitation, fears and questioning by neighbours/relatives.
I think before the fellowship, I was a hopeless person. I always used to say (except in front of girls) to my friends/colleagues in community that this too shall fail given nature of expected output level. But as results started pouring in and the effect it was having while results were not even out, I felt a sense of hope in me and people around myself. The hope of this intervention was to create community role modelling by which selection of students will cause aspiration and hope in their peers. After these selections, i think another thing that i realise is this role modelling can be both passive and active.
Passive role modelling would be natural competitiveness of peers to aspire for something better, while active role modelling will be guidance and support by supposed ‘role models’ to their peers in ecosystem along with passive one. In order to bring active role modelling, we need to look for values of these role models while selecting them for mentoring cum tutoring.
When I came here, I heard of community being significantly greedy and I was low on empathy as well. I also believed in same common perception of rural Uttar Pradesh society. But after my interactions, community seemed to be restraining to new changes rather than only greedy – which comes from a very narrow narrative.
My fellowship will be complete by the time this blog is posted. I am leaving Swarachna, with visuals of students who are working hard for their goals and hope to guide them always. I would like to thank Milaan and India Fellow to have given me this platform to try and learn from new experiments at my school and community.