12-year-old Usha* was a bright student who loved going to school and wanted to continue to study. However, her dreams were dashed when her father decided to migrate to Maharashtra. Usha’s family comes from a village in the Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh. By trade, they are cotton farmers, which had not been adequate to feed the family. So, in 2016 they migrated to Maharashtra to look for better economic opportunities. Usha was then in Class 3.
But, during a door-to-door survey conducted by Dinesh, a Team Balika volunteer with Educate Girls, identified Usha as an out of school girl. Her family had just returned to Barwani to harvest the cotton crops and earn some extra money. As Dinesh was leading the survey, Usha was leaving her home to sell cotton in the market.
“When I went to Usha’s house, only her mother was present, but she refused to speak to me. She didn’t even come out of the house. Women in this village are not encouraged to speak to men and that’s probably the reason why Usha’s mother didn’t speak to me. I found out the time when her father would be home by asking the neighbours and came back the next day. He didn’t pay any heed to what I had to say about his daughter’s enrolment… They were not doing very well financially and had hence decided to migrate. And just like many families in the area, the parents took their eldest daughter out of school (Usha) to look after the younger siblings while they’re at work,” says Dinesh. Clearly, Usha’s father was unconvinced by Dinesh’s intentions.
However, Dinesh refused to give up and had another idea. One day, he called the Aanganwadi (rural child-care centre) worker, a school teacher and the village secretary for a meeting with Usha’s father. The unique aspect of this meeting was that all those dignified individuals were women! Dinesh explained to the father that all these women went to school and had degrees. As a result, they are able to hold these distinguished positions and help their family financially. This would not have been possible without schooling.
Thereafter, Usha’s father realised the error of his ways and enrolled his daughter into Class 6 in 2019!
“I come from a family of farmers and accepted it as my fate. But, I see my mistakes and will make sure all my children go to school. The next time, I go to Maharashtra alone and I’ll send the money to my family here, so that Usha does not miss her classes,” says Usha’s father.
Educate A Child (EAC) has partnered with Educate Girls to identify out of school children like Usha to ensure that that they have access to quality primary education. With the support of EAC, Educate Girls has been working in some of the most remote and marginalised communities in India, providing over 241,000 formerly out of school children (OOSC) an opportunity to learn, thereby contributing directly to the UN’s SDG 4 and indirectly impacting a number of other SDGs.