Adharshila Balika Shivir : Sunshine of hope and Joy for young girls of Underprivileged and disadvantaged background
10 year old Rinku from Bhil tribe recounts innocently “I was too little when I was married”.
Her parents apparently work as bonded labour at a farm house. They clean cattle’s waste there. As she said in a quite neutral way ‘I also used to clean the waste of cattle there. Still, I do whenever I visit my parents during holidays”. A year ago, 68 year old Khemraj Choudhary, girls call him Basa (old man) out of love, co founder of Adharshila Balika Shivir, brought her to his center.
They wish to chirp like the birds! They wish to fly like the birds! How these little birds can chirp and fly when there is darkness in their sky?
However, sky glows with sunshine where little birds sing, frolic, learn reading and writing, dance and living a life of hope and joy.
There is Adharshila Balika Shivir, a residential learning center, for the young girls of disadvantaged and underprivileged communities and background. Adharshila is an alternative learning center which provides primary education to girls. For the secondary education it enrolls girls to government’s residential schools like kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidalaya (it is a scheme by Govt of India which provides residential educational facilities to girls belonging to scheduled tribe, scheduled caste, other backward classes, minorities and below poverty line in educationally backwards blocks).
It was founded by the aged couple of Khemraj Choudhary and Suman Chouhan, in year 2008, in Amarpura, one of the small villages of Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan, India.
10 year old Saagar’s mother passed away when she was seven. Her father left her and two of her siblings to live by themselves. Her maternal grandfather looks them after since then, who is economically too weak that he hardly can afford two time meal for them. It tears in her eyes as she said “Once my younger sister went to stay with our father and step mother but she was forced to do chores and beaten till injuries that my grandfather brought her back”.
She likes to read English stories. As she said “I wish to be a teacher, teach English and I want to look my siblings after.
Nikita is Rajput which is a privileged community in India. Adharshila doesn’t admit girls on basis of any caste but economical and social situation.
“This initiative started with a summer camp of young boys and girls from underprivileged communities to connect them to school and get them benefits from government’s education schemes. We noticed that there was hardly any girl in the camp. We studied whole situation and found out that girls don’t get a chance to go school from these communities mainly scheduled tribe like Bhil (in this area) and scheduled caste” said Suman Chouhan.
Children manage to do their work by themselves. In case of younger girls, senior girls help and guide.
Both sisters looked after by their mother as their father passed away. They are nine siblings including two brothers. Anti doesn’t like if anyone ask her ‘how many siblings you are?’ She said “my mother always gets angry. why we are so many children? There is no place to even sleep for all of you’.” In a choked voice she said “It is good here (Adharshila) as we get breakfast, lunch, fruits and dinner”. Her family has mere income of rs 1000/month.
All the children seemed quite excited and emotional when Raveena’s mother came to meet her. Raveena belongs to scheduled caste; her mother works as daily wage labour on construction sites. Her father has left them. After meeting for a while when her mother was leaving, she asks Raveena “do you need some money?” Raveena shook her head “yes”. Her mother gave her rs50.
Peer teaching is one of the teaching models of center.
There are girls from far villages of Pratapgarh district apart from Chittorgarh. Such is the popularity of Adharshila has reached. In fact, sometimes there are parents who are economically well sufficient, come to Adharshila to admit their girls. Since resources are scarce, Adharshila is stick to girls only from weaker section.
Sonu, studies in 10th class in a private boarding. She doesn’t have her biological family. Since her childhood she is looked after by Khemraj and Suman.
Currently Adharshila Learning Center is running on a rented space. Recently landlord has asked to vacate half of the space as he has to use the space for his own purpose. Resulting in Adharshila going through crisis of space. They have their own land nearby but not the fund to begin construction on it.
Young girl student of Adharshila recites couplets of Indian poet and saint, Kabir Das, during one of her classes.
Chouhan said “we manage to do many things ourselves only, possibly. It helps us to sustain in limited resources”.
There are many students whose clothes are provided by Adharshila. Premlata, one of the two teachers, said “we stitch or alter clothes from discarded or donated clothes”.
I visited Raju’s home in village Bhilon Ka Kheda, her mother was cooking at that time. It was around 8:45 AM but it was dark in the 10’ X 15’ home including kitchen. She didn’t complain about lack of light in her kitchen. In fact she said “it’s enough light. What more daylight I can ask for?” Every day she cooks only roti and a sabji (vegetable curry) for which her family of 2 adult and 3 children consume 500 ML of cooking oil and around 40 KG of flour in a month. Generally her children don’t ask for special dish but sometimes when children ask, adorably she has to say ‘no… when we will have money we will cook it’.
Students take rest for two hour after lunch. From 4 pm they go for extracurricular activities.
Kavita, became sobbed after she returns collecting her final report card of 5th grade. She passed 5th grade with 84% marks. She is sad because now she will be moved to Kasturba Hostel for her secondary education. Some of the girls who are good at study are admitted to government primary school. In fact nearby primary school teachers approach to Adharshila to give them some students as it gives them bright and regular students while girls stay at Adharshila Hostel.
There are girls for whom Adharshila covered 1st to 3rd grade in a year or two. It is to bring them to the level of age and grade. As many girls didn’t go to school before they came to Adharshila. Like in case of Kavita and Madhu (in next photo) both are 14 year old and passed 5th grade this year.
Madhu’s father has left them. Her mother moved to her parental home. She grazes a herd of goats and sometimes goes for wage labour. Madhu is one of the bright students at Adharshila. She passed her 5th grade with 85% marks this year. She takes the responsibility to manages all the younger girls.
Seema, studies in 11th, at a private residential school in district Nagaur of Rajasthan. She was married when she was quite young but Khemraj spotted her talent. She studied her 5th grade at Adharshila, then at Kasturba and after 8th grade she was admitted at a private school. All her education expenses are bear by Adharshila. Fond of english literature, Seema likes to read William Shakespeare.
“We want to create equal opportunities for the children of economically and socially disadvantaged communities. Until children get proper education their communities and they themselves will be oppressed by privileged strata as it is quite dominant in this area. Feudalism and Bonded labour have still handcuffed the freedom and value of life of scheduled tribe and scheduled caste here. Education is a way for these children to live a life of their rights” said Khemraj Choudhary.