Shinjini Chowdhury is a returning VOICE counsellor and worked with us as a trainer this winter. She spent a week in Khammam training counsellors and co-counsellors to impart the ‘Her VOICE’ curriculum. She writes about why she thinks VOICE camp is important.
While in class at VOICE camp, or even before, let us ask why we at all need to conduct special camps for adolescents who are already enrolled in school. Let us ask why we have to help them understand the importance of education so that they do not drop out of school. At winter camp 2015 at Khammam, when I asked college interns what they think is wrong (or right) with education policies in our country, here is what some of them had to say –
“Girls are dropping out (of school) because of the parents.” – Shubhangi, Field Coordinator
“Policies are laid down. What we need is implementation. We are entitled to the right to education. Awareness is needed that education is required. Besides, girls going to school don’t have access to proper funds.” – Malavika, Counsellor
“Policies are in place. They could have village campaigns to send girls to school. Girls are interested to study, parents aren’t so interested in allowing them. It should be instilled in parents’ minds that these girls could actually make a difference.” – Aradhana, Counsellor
Article 21(A) of the Indian Constitution safeguards free and compulsory education for children between 6 to 14 years of age. But laws never change trends. What makes parents deny education to their own children, especially girls? Is it only poverty, or is it also the menial work that women are expected to engage in to support their
families? Their mothers have done the same, and so must they! It is a gender tussle at play, no doubt, along with the struggles of poverty.So education is a luxury, especially for girl children. They are absorbed into India’s vast sector of cheap, uneducated labour – their lot is only to support their families emotionally, economically. It is a vicious, self- feeding cycle.
More than education policies, we are concerned about the approach to education. So, when we do get a chance to meet and spend time with these girls or their parents, we do not waste time on lessons – there is enough history and math taught in schools – we show them that they too have the spark. Learning can be enjoyable. More than that, learning can be a tool to help live with the awareness to exercise one’s rights. To you, who is reading this, we ask that you try to convince the next adolescent or parent you meet who does not believe in schooling, that it is a necessity. We ask you this because no number of laws will ever change a society unless we work on perspectives.
You might be part of VOICE or not, but you can be a change-maker in your own right. We do it by giving off our time. Join us in whatever capacity and
wherever you can.