Pune: These women brave all odds to (l)earn a living

There is no age limit when it comes to learning. 150 women, who are earning and being educated in a Pune-based school meant for adults, are proof of the same.

Meet 40-year-old Rajni Ohal, a resident of Market Yard in Pune, who was thrown out of her house, when she six-months pregnant, 12 years back. After delivering a son, she went back to her husband, but he thrashed and threatens to kill her and her son. In the meantime, her husband married another woman and is settled. She initially approached a lawyer, but later, having no knowledge of law and being illiterate, she left the case and started living with her son and brother in Market Yard. To sponsor her livelihood, she worked as a doorkeeper in a Pune-based private school. Now, she is studying in Class X, and has quit work. She used to wash utensils in other houses.

Ramabai Ranade runs Sevasadan, a school for adult, from Class I to Class X. It’s a Marathi medium school, which provides free of cost education to many adults from the age group of 14 to senior citizens. Many women are studying right from Class I to Class X. Significantly, not even one woman has failed her tenth in the last four years.

Pic in which woman on cycle is Kaushalya
Kaushalya alias Kavita Pasalkar-Jagtap

Rajani recalls, “From childhood, I was keen in studies but our parents were poor and they could not afford education of three siblings. Later, I quit my education and assisted my mother as a hawker. As I turned 18, my mother forced me to marry. After spending two years with my husband, I realised he was not good human and tortured me lot. He threw me out when I was pregnant, and did not accept me, even after I delivered. My brother was my strength, and he told me that I have to live for my son Nikhil who is the only ray of hope. Accordingly, I worked day and night so as not to be a burden on my brothers, and also for the education of my son.”

She went on, “Initially, I earned Rs 3000 and could afford for his education. But, as he is growing up, his fees are increasing. But, when I went for job interviews, many denied me good jobs as I was not even tenth pass. Later, I went to various schools for admission, but was unlucky. It was then that I came to know about Ramabai Ranade’s school. I took up admission in class eight and now I am in tenth standard. My son, Nikhil, is a 12-year-old boy and is studying in class eight. Initially, when I used to take my son’s education he used to claim studies are very difficult. To show him it is not difficult, I picked up studies and now we both study together. He helps me in English and Marathi grammar while I help him in Mathematics.”

She added, “On Saturday, I had my English board exams between 11 am to 2 pm. It was fine. Daily, after my examination, my son checks my papers and scrutinises whether I have written it right or wrong. He claims that I have written well and can score 60 marks. He is the biggest strength to me. Now, he acts like a father to me when it comes to studies. After my tenth, I want to pursue college and later study law. I want to be a lawyer, and help many other women like me.”

Similarly, 51-year-old Kaushalya alias Kavita Pasalkar-Jagtap, IS studying in class sixth, and was the topper in class five with 78%. She is a mother of two children and her husband is working as a painter. Her elder son Pawan is in Std XII commerce stream and daughter Tejaswini is also preparing for Std X.

Kaushalya gets up early in the morning and leaves her house around 8.30 am. She works as a domestic maid in six houses and later, around 11.30 am, from her house she goes on cycle to school. She learns there till 5.30 pm. After returning home, she cooks for her husband and children, and studies late at night.

Kaushalya recalls, “I come from a poor background in which girls are not allowed to study. Somehow, my parents managed to educate me till fourth standard. Later, I quit studies for my brother, who was a handicap. I married afterwards, but, in my heart, I wanted to study further.

She went on, “Two year back, my husband took me to this school and claimed that it is was our 20th marriage anniversary gift. Last year, I was in fifth standard. Initially, studies and understanding science and mathematics was difficult for me, but history and civics can be easily understand due to some of the historical serials on television and Bollywood movies.”

She added, “My children take up my studies and I teach my husband what I did today and that how its easy for me to understand and grab things. I have made a point to study daily, which helps me lot.”

Swati Walimbe, Principal of the school, said, “It’s a really difficult task to teach, as most of the women are mostly in the age group of 35 to 40 plus onwards. Entire schooling is free as it is government funded. It’s a challenges and our number has been increasing. To teach them, we use basic information that they observe on daily bases. In children, once we teach a chapter, we do not repeat it, but for such students the same chapter is taught thrice. I am glad that in four years, all our batches who were in tenth, passed. Some women wears uniform, but its not compulsory as many are working, and some of them still hide from their family that they are studying.”

Priya Nighotkar, class teacher of Class VI and Class X said, “Initially we had some ten women taking up education, but now the number has increased to 150. It’s a definite progress. Most of the women are divorcees or widows. After their SSC, we assist them in career guidance. Now, many of these women have got jobs as nurses, teachers and done ITR courses. They are taking their own classes, and are running small businesses.”

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