The best and the most beautiful time of our life is ‘childhood’ and nobody can deny it. There are so many dreams that we create in our childhood. It is often said by children: “When I grow up, I will fulfill my dreams.” Here, I would like to share a story of two small girl children, their dreams, and how their dreams are interconnected with society as well as the state.
Shama and Sana were born in a poor Muslim family in my village in Uttar Pradesh. Mixed caste, class and community people are living together in the village. Their mother Reshma Bua (name changed) got married three times within the Muslim community. Her first husband died young, so people arranged her second marriage out of which two girls were born. But, due to some family dispute, she came back to her home. Her children were looked after by her in-laws.
As I try to remember, she was never physically fit due to pregnancy issues. She always looks like a sick person. Her family members then arranged her marriage within the community. The person was working in Saudi Arabia, and after their marriage, Reshma Bua gave birth to Shama and Sana. But, she often used to lived with her brother and mother in her village. Whenever I used to go to my village, I used to play with Shama and Sana. Sometimes I’d take some toffees and biscuits for them.
One day I got the news that Reshama Bua is no more due to her third delivery complications. At the end of her life, she gave birth to a beautiful daughter. There is no hospital facility in my village. The nearest hospital is eight kilometers from my village. Due to patriarchal norms and no hospital facility, she lost her life.
Sana was so beautiful when she was one year old. I remember an incident, when I was playing with some children, and suddenly, I couldn’t find Sana and started looking for her. She was smiling and had taken my kurti in her hand, and was holding her pink chunari in her teeth. That time, people started laughing, and Reshma Bua said: “Ise apne saath le jao. Har samay tumhare sath rahna isko achha lagta hai (take her with you, she always enjoys your company).
After the death of Reshma Bua, both her children were sold off by her in-laws family for Rs 20,000. When I heard the news about Shama and Sana and their sister being sold, I started crying. I was crying at Reshama Bua’s death news because I was missing the words that she had told me only a week earlier: “ Ise apne saath le jao. Har samay tumhare sath rahna isko achha lagta hai.”
I got more upset because I have prejudice and was afraid of the girls being sold to the red light areas. Thank God! It did not happen. When Bua’s family and the villagers came to know about this, they helped finding Shama and Sana. Bua’s third daughter was sold to a rich family. When the villagers went to that family, they found that the family had requested the in-laws that they want to look after this child because they have no child. They said that they’d love her as their daughter and would never give a chance to complain. After this incident, the villagers got convinced and came back to the village.
Now, Shama and Sana are eight and seven years old respectively. They are studying in class fourth in a primary school in my village. Sometimes, I go to the village and meet them, play with them and study with them. Both are very good at studies. Both are brilliant girls.
One day, I asked many children what they want to become. The children started answering me, but Shama remained silent. She told me that first I want to study properly, because without good education, what can she imagine. She said that she is studying in a primary school where the teacher often combines two classes in one class because of a lack of teachers in the school. She mentioned how so a lot of students make noise in the classroom, not letting others focus on their studies. One of the teachers even comes with her baby many times in the classroom, and the students would play with her child. She is rude and strict.
One day, a student (from a lower caste) had a bump on the head, and the teacher started hitting on that bump. She was not guilty about this incident. The girl’s family came and started quarreling with the teacher. The teacher got angry and showed them the power of a government employee by saying that she’s earning Rs 50,000 and that she knew some people in the police and so on. After this incident, students became afraid of her.
Further, Shama said that, if possible, she’d study in a good school. Sana added to Shama’s thoughts: “Didi, in my school, the midday meal is not properly given to us. They do not give us pure milk. They add water in our milk, I saw it. Sometimes, they do not give us fresh fruits. The taste of khichadi is not good, but we have to eat. The way of eating food in primary school is not good. Children have to sit on the floor and eat (in ukadu-mukadu position).”
Sana also mentioned that the children want to sit on a desk and table (for study and dining) as the other school is providing. They want to study from those teachers who love them irrespective of their caste, class, community and religion. The kids say that they face problems in their village because of their caste, class, religion and so on. They have a dream to study more and more, so that people stop discriminating against them.
Both the girls go to school regularly, but they hope to study in a good school. Their first wish is that their teachers should love them. Why are their teachers so strict? Why do they hate children from villages? Due to poverty, they are not able to wear good clothes. Sometimes, they dirty their clothes because they are playing, and people should always remember that they are children.
I talked to some primary school teachers and observed that they are not interested in teaching in primary school. They are preparing for higher education or the civil services exam. Thinking about one’s betterment is not a bad thing, but not performing their duty is not fair to the children. The children have the hope that a good teacher will come and they will love the kids and properly teach them.
Sana and Shama also told a story about a good teacher. He loves children and teaches and plays with them. When he was leaving the school, the children cried for him. There are a few primary school teachers who perform their duty by heart. Unfortunately, these numbers are very less in our Indian society. It is well known that most of the children who go to public schools are from poor or lower middle-class families, or are orphans. They are the future of our society and India. Sana and Shama are good in studies in comparison to private school children. They said, “We’ve learned so many things from that good teacher, and nothing learned from this new teacher. She shouts at children all the time. We feel that she doesn’t want to teach us.”
India is a diverse society where people from mixed caste, class, religion are living together. The basic necessity of a person is education, which is a fundamental and human right of each person. The Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai fought for it. Her famous quote that I always remember is: “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Proper education and good quality education can change the direction of society in the right way. It will help India to compete in the world. We have to think seriously about the dream of children. This is the time to love poor and discriminated children, and not ignore them because of their caste, class, religion, region and gender nexus. It is true that the state is providing education to children, but only giving education is not going to help them fulfill their dreams.
Love, motivation and listening to their problems can help improve the status of children. It can help them fulfill their dreams and bring them into the mainstream. The state should train primary school teachers how to teach and love children beyond their caste, class, religious and region, because the roles of primary school teachers is the most important in a society. They have to always remember that those children come from oppressed castes, classes and communities.
The first female teacher of India Savitribai Phule’s poem is relevant in this time also:
Swabhiman se jeene hetu
Betiyon pdho-likho khoob padho
Paathshala roj jakar
Nit apna gyan badhao
Har insan ka saccha abhushan shiksha hai
Har stri ko shiksha ka gahana pahanana hai
Pathashala jao aur gyan lo
Thanks to the children from my village, especially Sana and Shama…