Durga Lal Bairwa, is a father to 3 daughters and 1 son. Like majority of the population in his remote village in Rajasthan, he too is uneducated. However, what set him apart was his agreeability towards educating his children, especially his daughters – a long-standing sore point between him and the elders of his family and village. Many village folk were so offended by his break from tradition that they spread rumours of Durga Lal being demon-possessed or mentally unstable.
Despite all the ridicule Durga Lal continued educating his children. Khushi, Durga Lal’s eldest daughter, studied in the village primary school up until the 5th standard. The closest upper primary school (6th-8th standard) was about 4 km away from the village. Even though Durga Lal wanted his daughter to study further, he was not very keen on sending her so far by foot, and alone, on the lonely and difficult terrain.
When Educate Girls’ field coordinator, Sonu, visited the village, Durga Lal discussed with her the reason why Khushi was out-of-school. Sonu encouraged Durga Lal to send Khushi to the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyala (KGBV) – a government-run free residential school for girls. Durga Lal vehemently refused by saying, “The KGBV is haunted. Many unexplained things happen there.”
Sonu decided to visit the ‘haunted school’. When Sonu entered the KGBV she saw that all the plants in the school compound had wilted away, the swings and slide were broken and many parents had taken their girls out of school. The teachers agreed that some disturbing things were occurring the past few months. The plants were dying (even the new ones that they planted), things went missing or were broken, and sometimes howling noises were heard in the middle of the night.
Sonu investigated the matter further and with help from the teachers, late one night, she happened to catch some boys red-handed when they broke a window. After some coercing the boys confessed that some people from the village had asked them to pour soap water in the soil to kill the plants and do all the mischief they had being doing so that people would believe that the school was haunted and not send their girls to study there.
In a village meeting, with help from the Panchayat, the rumours surrounding the KGBV were laid to rest and Sonu spoke to the community members about the benefits of education and the need to not keep girls away from this basic right.
Durga Lal happily got Khushi enrolled in 6th standard at KGBV. Khushi is very happy and is working hard to fulfil her father’s dream of seeing her in a white doctor’s coat with a stethoscope around her neck. Durga Lal says, “If it weren’t for Sonu ji’s intervention, I would still believe in the story of a haunted school. This incident has further proved to me how important education really is. It makes you think and ask the right questions. Now that my daughters can surely finish school, I will not be haunted by the ghosts of regret!”