40 girls beat all odds, emerge 'Champions'

Jan 02, 2013, 07:14 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

Forty of 464 girls, mostly from rural areas across the state, who are soon to become the first proud graduates in their respective families, have currently gathered in the University of Pune (UoP) to attend a special workshop.

The workshop is a pilot project and will study the hardships and struggles the students from rural and backward areas of the state have been facing over the years on their educational journey. Results of the study could then be used to guide government agencies in reframing policies in future.

UoP’s Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s study centre with help from National Commission for Protection and Child Rights (NCPCR) started the project titled ‘Champions of higher education in Maharashtra’ six months ago. Through this project, the centre will scout for ‘Champion’ girls — who are first generation learners in their family, as their parents are either illiterate or have minimal educational background.

Bringing pride: Member of the group, who will soon be first-generation graduates in their respective families. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

“We call these girls champions since they have reached senior college despite all the adversities. In the first phase of our project, we short listed 464 champion girls from 10 districts through quantitative analysis,” said Dr Sharmila Rege, director Women’s Study Centre, UoP.

“As the results of the quantitative analysis are not adequate to study the challenges these girls are facing and the required changes at policy-making level, we have short listed 40 girls out of the 464 and to participate in the workshop.”

The workshop named ‘Writing Lives and Drafting Dreams’ includes eight different exercises the girls are undergoing, which will bring to light their journey to completing their education.

Saliya Inamdar hails from Pabal, a small village in Shirur Taluka and is a second year BCom student. “My mother is illiterate and my father studied till Std VII. Though my brother is school dropout, my parents have always supported me to pursue higher education. I never ever got a scholarship from the government, as I belong to the Other Backward Classes. A scholarship will really help me to continue my post graduation,” she said.

Saliya added that most girls in her college get married even before getting their degree. “In the first year, there were 60 girls in our class. But in second year, most of them will be getting married and their education will come to an end. Unfortunately, no one has a solution to this problem,” Saliya said.

NCPCR chairperson Shantha Sinha said that her observation of a new trend is encouraging, provided the students get help from the government. “I am observing that girls, especially from rural parts of the state, belonging to tribal, and dalit community are coming forward to pursue higher education. Fortunately, their parents are supporting the aspirations of these first generation learners.

Now we expect affirmative action from the government’s side, which include more colleges, hostels and scholarships. The ongoing research project will help us to prepare a methodology and implement similar projects in other states.”  

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