A day on the field

By Viplow Shivhare

Pratham State Head, Rajasthan 

At  a small village in Bhilwara district, we had the experience of facing some bitter realities along with some sweet experiences.

Our journey started with a glimpse of the pot hole ridden road to the village. Once we reached the village, we met Ganesh from ASER who told us how he had to take lifts from passing tractors since there was no bus connectivity to the village.

The village was divided into four parts i.e. main village, Brahman ki Dhani, Regro ki Dhani and Bhilo ki Dhani. While there is a mix of all the castes in the main village, in the dhanis, people were segregated according to caste.

We started our survey in the main village. At the first household we surveyed, the owner of the house was a government officer whereas his wife was a government teacher. We tested their daughter who could read the story fluently and solved division problem. She also tried to read English. Saroj; her mother wants to admit her in Navodaya School. We were happy that they are trying to give good education to their daughter. More so, they were very aware and keen on getting better things for the daughter.

After surveying all 5 households in the main village, we went to Brahmano ki Dhani. There, at one of the surveyed house, we found out how the parents were sending their daughters to a government school while the son was sent to a private school. The reason was obvious considering how most parents preferred to have their sons exposed to better schooling. While testing the children, women from the dhani started complaining about the conditions of the schools and about the number of teachers being less. While the testing happened, sometimes the parents supported the students and at other times were angry on them as they were struggling while reading and doing arithmetic. It was interesting to see the range of emotions the women expressed in that short interaction; it was anger, help and support, helplessness for not being able to help their children and the hope that things would change. As the survey progressed, we kept getting more such insights from the field. We noticed how most parents across the village were keen to have their children tested. Some even expressed their disappointment at the system and shared their helplessness in this regard. It was interesting to observe this wide range of emotions as the survey progressed.

After Brahmano ki Dhani, we went to Regro ki dhani. To our surprise, we only found one girl to test and she had never been to school. So, she could not read. Soon we figured out why there weren’t any children at home. Since most of them had gone to the fields to help their parents with farming, there were very few people in the village. In spite of this, we could carry out the survey effectively since the people were very cooperative.

There were only 20-25 households in Bhilo ki Dhani. Most of the people were illiterate and were involved in farming. There are big families- nuclear families but still big ones. Parents living with their seven to nine children! The earning/education levels were very problematic. This village clearly demonstrated the link between illiteracy and poverty. Huge families worsened the situation all the more.

As always, this time also ASER has shown us some sweet and some bitter realities - many different shades of the village. On one side, people trying to admit their children in better schools and on the other hand, access to basic government schools is difficult.

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