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From women being kept away from an education to having some revolutionary women in the education sector in India, we have come a long way!
‘When girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous’ – Michelle Obama
Our country has a great number of people who are selflessly doing something in their capacity for the betterment of the society. They are never in the limelight, never invited for inaugural functions; they just keep working towards their goals. Illiteracy is still a serious problem in India and some women have taken it upon themselves to change that.
Below are a few noteworthy women in the education sector in India, who have founded schools to make children literate enough to get employed, to know between wrong and right and be able enough to earn a living for themselves and their families.
Here are these 5 revolutionary women in the education sector who are silently letting their work change the education scenario for marginalised children, and the world needs to know about:
At 81, Vimla Kaul has been a teacher almost all her life. When she retired 20 years ago, she refused to enjoy the life of a retiree and instead, along with her husband, founded a school for the underprivileged. She knew she wanted to do something for society, and on one woman’s suggestion, she decided to teach the kids from the slums.
She established a school named Guldasta in 1993 in a Municipality Park in Delhi. 2 years ago it was upgraded to a 4 room tenement, after an NGO adopted the school. Students here are taught English, Maths, Environment Science, Computers and extra-curricular activities like Yoga, dance and drill. There is an entrance exam that happens to assess the students before sending them to the next class.
She carried on her struggle in spite of almost no support or encouragement from the society. But in the end there are happy stories where her students are earning a living as a mechanic, waiter or as a computer graduate. Vimla is happy she can give the kids a childhood that they deserve.
Roshni Mukherjee established ExamFear Education by quitting a well paying job at an IT company. She was always a good student, had a passion for teaching, and always got a good feedback about her teaching style from her college friends and relatives.
Roshni’s realized that even though everyone cannot afford quality education, the internet has the power to reach the nook and corners of the World, and can be harnessed for this purpose. She decided to run a virtual school by using the internet which reaches thousands of students all over the world who are willing to learn.
In 2011, she began uploading her teaching videos on YouTube while she was still employed with Wipro. She soon began to get positive responses, and after a while she decided to dedicate her entire time towards ExamFear.
Her teaching methods are simple. She explains the concepts of Physics, Chemistry, Maths, and Biology, using examples from daily life. She uses pictorials and animations to simplify things. Her lessons are followed by questions and answers to help students apply the concepts learnt.
With over 4000 videos already uploaded and 75000 subscribers, Roshni has bigger plans. She wants to translate these videos into regional languages for students in remote locations who are less comfortable with English.
At 68, Geeta Dharmarajan is a teacher, children’s book writer, editor, social worker and a Padma Shri awardee.
Geeta established Katha 28 years ago. Starting out as a one woman establishment, today Katha runs schools for the underprivileged children in about 252 slums in various locations like Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra.
She began by publishing a children’s magazine – Tamasha to teach children in the less fortunate communities through colourful illustrations and stories on health, environment and women’s empowerement. Soon the magazine reached about 30000 schools.
In 1989, Katha Shala was established –Katha’s first school. It began with 5 students and its teachers came from the slums and were once upon a time, trained by Katha. Geeta understood that parents were reluctant to send their children to school as they could not afford the fees. Geeta decided to help the women of these households to earn about a thousand rupees a month by training them in various activities like baking, cooking, embroidery in their training labs. Today, Katha has helped over 20,000 women increase their household income by ten folds. Katha today boasts of 45000 students in 43 training labs who are supported by 2000 slum volunteers.
With many of Geeta’s students joining colleges and several have gone to pursue professions like Doctors, Engineers and teachers. Over 9,00,000 children helped out of poverty, 21,500 of them in IT and 90,000 women earning money through their skills, Geeta is not about to slow down any time soon.
Vasudha Prakash was pursuing her doctorate studies in USA and she often based her research papers on special schooling in India. After an appearance on a programme in India, a lot of parents reached out to her, telling her of the dearth of special schools in India. That is how she founded V-Excel – A learning centre which teaches medical, vocational and educational skills to persons with special needs. She began with 11 students in 2001, which has today changed the lives of over 35,000 individuals across the nation.
Vasudha says it is compulsory for schools to provide inclusive education to children with special needs in the government recognised and government funded institutions. But even so, there is a lot of resistance, as there is not enough awareness as to how to deal with these kids. Vasudha and her staff trains schools to accommodate the kids with special needs and also trains students on how to behave around kids with special needs. V-Excel teaches kids with developmental disabilities to cope with their academics through music, art, movement play and occupational therapy.
Apart from this, she has also established a vocational training unit where the students are trained to car-wash, garden, cook etc. The students in the Chennai centre make things like bags, mugs, and sanitary pads to name a few.
Today V-Excel has 9 satellite centres in Chennai, Tirunelveli, Erode, and Nashik. She plans to expand the number to 15 in the next 1 year. Vasudha points out that changing the mindset of adults still remains her biggest challenge. Parents overprotect their children, not letting them free to explore their potential.
Muktaben lost the gift of sight at the age of seven due to meningitis. But she did not give up. She went on to get a diploma in teacher’s training for the blind and also got herself a BA degree in Arts with first class. She wanted to do something for the blind community and especially, women.
Along with her husband, Pankajbhai Dagli, also visually impaired, she opened Pragnachaksu Mahila Seva Kunj – a nonprofit school for blind and visually impaired women in 1995 in Surendranagar, Gujarat. 400 students have graduated from this institute adorned with various skills like Computer coding in different languages and teaching apart from Braille studies. Some are even trained to become Electrical Engineers, Beauticians and Chefs. And there is no charge for learning!
Muktaben believes that apart from teaching life skills, she needs to teach her students to be fearless. She has arranged 164 successful marriages in the last decade where both the people in the marriage are visually impaired; Muktaben believes empathy is much more present in such an arrangement.
Muktaben and Pankajbhai decided never to have kids of their own but adopt thrown out blind girls to give them a better life.
These extraordinary women in the education sector are ordinary humans like us. What makes them extraordinary is the compassion they show towards other humans, and the will to do something with their lives rather than just live for themselves. If our society gets many more of such wonderful, God-sent teachers, India is sure to become a progressive and forward-thinking nation.