(thanks to steady presence of volunteers and continuous efforts of the NGO called Saarthak)
For a village that has never ever imagined of seeing its girls studying, it’s a dream come true when young teenage girls step out in groups headed to their daily school. This is the new reality of the famous (yet, poor)“Elephant village” close to Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. Elephant village is known for hundreds of people who raise elephants and earn their living through these animals.They are called “Mahaouts” and typically fall into the lowest income groups in the society. The children in these families are used to helping their parents from a very early age – boys will mostly feed the elephants, groom them and take them out for work whereas the girls will help the ladies in the family to cook and clean.
In 2011, IDEX and Saarthak ( a non-profit, established by Dr. Kusum Sharma, who is also a founder of Idex) combined their efforts to bring education to this community. At that time, it hardly seemed like a possibility because the community was not open to formal education. The organizations decided to start giving them their traditional “religious education” in order to get a foot in the door. Gradually, they started teaching other subjects like English, Hindi, and Maths. With time, the parents got convinced that their children can read and write like other school-going city children too!
IDEX and Saarthak started with informal education for the boys, and got female volunteers to teach the girls. As the interest to study rose among these kids, the boys got their parents ready to allow them to go to regular school. In a village full of illiterate families, this was the first generation of literate children including veiled girls stepping out the family threshold to study in government-funded schools. Soon enough, the community built a local school for the children.
The female volunteers played a very positive role in bringing this change. They started by visiting families in their homes – building relationships, sharing personal examples of how education has helped them earn a dignified living. After three years of concerted efforts in this direction, the “Elephant village” now boasts of an English-medium school with 27 children, and that is being supported by IDEX and a non-profit, Young Dreamers Association.
These girls behind black veils now manage some English and learn computers. They are committed to making progress in their lives. The community belongs to low income group and family income ranges around a hundred US dollars a month. So far they were convinced that they can’t earn a better living as they have no skills other than raising elephants but now things are changing in this community.
10 year old Gulabsa is one of the most intelligent students and her parents – Aibli and Sajna are excited that their daughter will bring happiness to this family.
In rural places, there is an education committee meeting where parents see the progress of their kids and feel really happy. Kids read out newspapers to their parents, borrow books from the school library and read the stories to their parents. Ramzaan from the Education Committee says that earlier, there used to be fights between the kids and that used to be a big concern to their families too. However, now the kids get busy in their studies and that is a kind of relief to the society. Volunteers engage themselves in teaching the kids in such a manner that the kids do not feel that they are loaded with so many things, but they build their interests and consider this in their fun activities.
The aim here is that every person should engage and devote themselves to education so that they take entire responsibilities to teach their kids too ultimately resulting in no illiterates in the society.