150 women students, who are earning and studying in a Pune-based school meant for adult education have proved that age is no bar for learning.
40-year-old Rajani Ohal, a resident of Marketyard was thrown out of her home 12 years ago when she was six months pregnant. She returned home after delivering a baby boy only to be thrashed by her husband, who also threatened to kill her and her son. He went on to marry another woman. Rajani initially approached a lawyer but was turned away as she was illiterate. She then started living with her son and her brother. She worked as door keeper in a private school to make ends meet and would wash utensils in other people's houses.
Rajani recalls, "From childhood I was keen in studies but our parents were poor and could not afford education to three siblings. Later, I quit my education and assisted mother as a hawker. After I turned 18 my mother forced me into marriage. After spending two years with my husband I realized he was not a decent man and would torture me a lot. He threw me out of the house six months after our son was conceived. Later after my delivery he didn't accept me. My brother was my strength and told me that I have to live for my son Nikhil, who is our only ray of hope. Accordingly, I worked day and night so that I won't be a burden to my brothers for my son's education."
She went on, "Initially I earned Rs 3000 and was able to afford for his education. But now as he is growing up his fees are increasing. When I would go for a job interview, I'd be denied a good position as I was not even tenth pass. Later, I went to various schools to requested them to grant me admission but was denied. It was then that I came to know about the Ramabai Ranade school. I took up admission in class eight and now I am in tenth standard. My son Nikhil, who is 12-years-old is also studying in class eight. Initially, when I tried to teach my son he would claim studies are very difficult and to show him it's not I became a student. Now we both study together. He helps me in English and Marathi grammer while I help him in Mathematics."
She added, "On Saturday, I had my English board examination between 11 am to 2 pm. It was fine. Daily after my examination, my son would check my papers after coming home and tell me wheather I have written it right or wrong. He claims that I have written my paper well and can score 60 marks. He is my biggest strength and now acts like a father to me when it come to studies. After my tenth, I want to pursue college and study law. My dream is to become a lawyer and help other women like me."
51-year-old Kaushalya alias Kavita Pasalkar-Jagtap, who is currently studying in class sixth topped the exams last years with 78 per cent. Her elder son Pawan has appeared for his HSC exams in the commerce stream and her daughter Tejaswini is preparing for her SSC examinations. Kaushalya's husband Dattatraya works as a painter.
Kaushalya gets up early in the morning and leaves her house around 8.30 am to work as a domestic maid in six houses and later leaves for school around 11.30 am and returns home at 5.30 pm. After cooking for her husband and children she studies late at night. She topped her class last year in class fifth.
Kaushalya recalls, "I come from a poor background where girls weren't allowed to study. Somehow my parent struggle a lot to teach me and I could gain education till fourth standard. Later I quit my education for my brother who was handicap and he studied. Later I married but still somewhere in corner It hurted me that I wanted to study.”
She went on, "I work as a domestic maid in other people's houses so that my children can obtain the best education. Two years ago, my husband, who is a painter took me to this school and admitted me there claiming it was a gift on the occasion of our 20th anniversary. Last year I was in the fifth standard and had difficulty understanding science and mathematics. I was able to understand history and civics easily thanks to historical TV shows and Bollywood films."
She added, "My children help me with my studies and I teach my husband what I learnt today and that how its easy for me to understand and grab equally. I have made a point to study daily which helps me lot."
Smt. Ramabai Ranade High School for Adult Women is being run by the Sevasadan Society society in Pune. It's a Marathi medium school where admission is free of cost and female students from age 14 to senior citizens are studying from class first till tenth. The school has gained a stellar reputation as all students, who have appeared for the Std X board exams since the last four years have passed.
The school's Principal Swati Walimbe said, "It's a really difficult task to teach them as most of the women are between 35 to 40 years. The entire schooling is free as its government funded. It's challenge and our numbers have been increasing. To teach students at such an advanced age we employ a trick where we teach them basic information that they observe on a daily bases and this helps us. In case of children once the a chapter is taught it's not repeated but for such students the same chapter is taught thrice as we also have to finish the portion. I am glad that in four years all our batches, who were in tenth board examination have passed with flying colours. Some women wear uniform but we haven't made it compulsory as many are working and some of them still hide the fact that they are studying from their family."
Priya Nighotkar, who teaches classes six and ten said, "Initally we had ten women, who took up education with us but the number has increased to 150. It's a progress. Most of them are divorcees and widows. After they finish their SSC examination provide them career guidance. Now, many of our former students are successfully employed as nurses, teachers, some have completed ITR courses, while others are running small businesses."