Breaking the shackles

Lack of basic amenities and the unfortunate discrimination that many of our communities and areas still suffer from, cause irreparable harm to the children of these communities and the entire village at large.

The Musahar community of Bihar has been in a cocoon surrounded by social and political discrimination from many years. Discrimination not only from other bigger cities and communities, but also from villages a few kilometres away! With no schools or anganwadis in the area, the children of the Barwa village in West Champaran, Bihar, have been living a secluded life unaware of
the life beyond the village, unaware of the life of being an educated child. These children possess a commendable amount of indigenous knowledge, imagine the wonders they could do if this
knowledge is integrated with academic knowledge.

11 year old Neha, after being a victim of untouchablity and discrimination not just by fellow students but also from the teacher at her school 2 hours away from Barwa, had to drop out of school soon after class 5. She was then a stay at home child assisting her mother to the nearby forest to collect firewood. She wanted to study, she wanted to learn more…she did not want her story to end so soon.

Jan Shiksha Bhavan (READ) along with NEG-FIRE realised the need to work for inclusive quality education of the Musahars of Barwa. Through NEG-FIRE’s support READ started a Supplementary
Education Centre (SEC) in the village. The SEC centre provides education to the school drop-outs, provides extra classes to strengthen the academic knowledge of children and helps them in re-
enrolling to schools and perform better. Through the SEC, the mothers group was formed and regular discussions, street play and meetings with the Tola Sewak were organised to sensitise the
community towards sending their children to schools and the teachers to become sensitive about such prevalent issues.

Neha, unlike other children, would never attend the classes being held at the SEC but was often spotted watching and listening to whatever was being taught from a distance. The project
coordinator, after looking into Neha’s case, found out that there was strong restriction from her family towards her receiving further education. Numerous requests and discussions later, her family agreed. They finally realised it was essential for her to get educated and to have a normal childhood. They realised she had immense potential.

2 years later, Neha is currently in class 7 in a middle school in Chamar Digga, Badhgaon, and also attends the SEC regularly. She ensures that she brings along as many children as possible on her way to the centre and the school. Now a leader of the kishori group, she conducts meetings regularly with the adolescent girls and has also helped 8 other Musahar children to get enrolled in her school. Neha, who wants to become a teacher, is also a regular at any meetings held regarding child protection, education and health and sanitation. She also takes efforts to educate others about the same.

When was the last time that you met such a powerful 14 year old girl?

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