A Story of Striving
This week we found ourselves overjoyed celebrating the striving success of a young boy who didn’t give up. We always love to hear those stories as children, but to tell you the truth, they’re EVEN BETTER in real life. Here we were sitting at a table on a hot sunny day, wearing masks, on a hot, ready to celebrate this young boy, Sariful. Faces all around shone of pride, accomplishment, and of course happiness. Sariful is the first of our students to have passed his final exams and graduate high school! This day had once seemed so far away, how did we get here? Let’s take a look back.
Back in 2013, we were running one class in the slum of Makhdoom Pur. At that time we had only one teacher, Mr. Vinay, and one volunteer, Ms. Sharmila, who would teach these students. Although we were trying to instruct their education the best we knew how, we soon realised that we can provide very little and yet our kids kept growing. This gave rise to the idea of formal education. Maybe we could partner with a formal school to fill in that missing educational gap we saw. We had heard of Prerna school which was about 7 kms from Makhdoom Pur who provided formal education to students at very minimal monthly fees. With this vision in mind, we met with the principal of Prerna school and asked for admission. He agreed and everyone was excited, especially the children. From our slum, we chose 22 students who were 8 years or older to apply for the formal education. Sariful was one of those 22 students. We had already prepared our students for the entrance test and after completing the test, they all got admitted to different classes at Prerna school. We all in JanPragati were very excited and we all felt as this milestone will be the answer for our students' education. We patted our back and said to each other, “This is it, We did it!”
That was a simple fix! Well...maybe not. We were grateful to find a willing school to partner with who would provide the formal education that we couldn’t. We thought we had found the solution to our problem, yet unknown to us, it was just the beginning of many obstacles to come.
In the beginning our students and their families were very eager to have the opportunity to get formal education. A dream they had wanted. We quickly saw that distance was the first obstacle. Many of our students would go to work with their parents in the morning, collecting garbage, and come back by afternoon, then they quickly eat and get ready to go to school by 12 o’clock. Not everyone had bicycles. Most of them had to walk 7km everyday in the hot sun to get to their classes. Soon our students started to feel discouraged from this routine.
Most parents were supportive of formal education but soon they could see that it was affecting their daily work when the child would go to school. Sometimes the children would stay back while the parents were working. Their job then would be to get food ready and take care of any younger children. Due to the change in routine and homework, more often the children wouldn’t have food ready when they came back from work. The priorities of school would take the children away from helping their parents work, therefore giving the parents less manpower. As a result parents stopped encouraging their students to go to school and the child was on his own. This was the biggest obstacle we saw.
Our students had always been raised in the slums and had not been to a different setup. They didn’t know the routine or lifestyle of children in school. Our students felt peer pressure and were finding it difficult to adjust with the new change, new teachers and students. This formal education was very different from their schooling with Mr. Vinay and Ms. Sharmila. In our slum school, our teachers like to spend time with students and play with them. They had felt that care and love which they found missing in formal school.
All these obstacles left our students discouraged from going to formal school and most of them had stopped attending Prerna school. Many of them simply wanted to rejoin our slum school. (Seeing these obstacles, eventually led to a start of the Process Education System used at JP) Soon out of 22 students, 19 students dropped and only 3 continued. And after some years, only 2 students continued. Sariful and Rehana. They are brother and sister. It’s not that those two students didn’t meet with the obstacles. Rather, they met those obstacles, and keep pressing on! It was a long journey for Sariful and even after failing in school he did not let that overpower him. Sariful was once taken back to Assam for a short time, but he kept his studies and when he returned he continued. He continued all the way until he passed his 10th Class exams and completed High School (pictures below).
Which brings us back to the present, hot, sunny day. Celebrating with Sariful, his family, fellow students, our teachers, and YOU. We tell this story with joy and pride. He did it! This is a story of Sariful, overcoming many obstacles, STRIVING to accomplish what he had started out to do. Congratulations Sariful, from all of us to you, You did it!!!!!