Dayaram Vashishtha/Faridabad (Haryana)
In 2006, Prahlad Singh and Rajesh Ahlawat were posted as guest teachers in the Government High School in Khandawali, a Muslim-majority village in the Faridabad district of Haryana. The two teachers who were outsiders realised that only 300 children were enrolled in the school and they too came to have their mid-day meal.
Khandawali, a village of 6,000 people is located about 50 kilometers south of the capital.
Both the teachers hit upon a plan. Along with another teacher Yadaram, they started calling parents for interaction. They would try to motivate them to send their children to school.
Their hard work paid off. Enrollment in the schools was growing; more girls than boys were seeking admission in the school. The school also took pains to train students in sports.
Girls of Khandawali writing their exams
Fifteen years later, today Khandawali village is full of girls and women going to the schools and colleges. Muslim girls have emerged from the traditional restrictions and many travel to Delhi for their college. Young men and women are scoring success in sports and winning medals in different tournaments.
The village is living proof of the success of PM Modi’s campaign of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.
Awareness about education has changed the attitudes and social conditions of the village. Many girls from Khandawali are studying at Jamia Millia Islamia Central University, Delhi, Nehru College of Faridabad.
Some are also studying medicine and pharmacy in Delhi. Many girls including Anam, Rukhsar, and Laiva are pursuing higher education at Shama Praveen Hisar University.
Recently, Laiva, niece of former Sarpanch Abdul Sattar and a pharmacy student, was honoured by the Delhi government.
Dr Khatija Khan
Khatija Khan, daughter of local advocate Haji Arshad Khan is an Ayurvedic doctor at the BK Hospital, Faridabad and her brother is studying MBBS from ESI Alwar.
Many locals are in different professions and services, thanks to the awareness generated by two teachers 15 years ago.
Dr. Abbu Urera, a professor at the Nehru College, who hails from the village, says, “The dropout rate in the village is as high as 65 to 75 percent and it is a matter of concern.” He says some families educate their girls till the 10th or 12th and then marry them off.
The people of Khandawali are mostly farmers and are considered experts in boring wells for installing tubewells. Many children also picked up some work to supplement the income of their fathers.
According to Professor Dr. Abbu Urera, villagers have financial constraints to allow the continuation of their children’s studies.
However, there are examples to show how the human spirit and community bonding can help some people overcome poverty.
School children taking milk as part of the mid-day meal
Rizwana from Khadawali has earned a B.Sc. degree in Mathematics from Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi. Her father Mohammad Ilyas is a mechanic. He earns too little to support his family. Her brother died of a protracted illness four years ago. Despite the harsh conditions of her life, Rizwana did not lose courage.
She is preparing to sit in the competitive examinations for good central and state government jobs while teaching at a private school in the village.
When Rizwana was in the ninth grade, she left school due to financial problems. At that time a good samaritan Amjad Khan took the responsibility of educating Rizwana.
Rizwana rejoined school and also tried to motivate her three siblings - a brother and two sisters - to study.
Rizwana told Awaz-the Voice that she looks after the expenses of her household and also pays for the education of her siblings. Their parents wish that their children get a proper education. “I am moving towards the same goal.” She said.
The education revolution started by teachers Prahlad Singh and Rajesh Ahlawat has changed the atmosphere of the village. The village stands out for its high-performing sportspersons in the State of Haryana. Local children travel to other parts of the state for tournaments and it has widened their horizons.
Teacher Rizwana in her class
Today this school is recognized throughout Haryana. PTI Prakash Veer of the school said, “The girls here are doing well in sports along with good education.”
School principal Shashi Yadav says, “The children of this school are making a name for themselves in education along with sports. Many children have secured 80 percent marks in class 10th. The girls here are very capable. They just need to be encouraged.”
Yet she has her concerns. “More than 50 percent of the children have dropped out of school and it is a matter of concern.”
She keeps trying to reduce the dropout by holding meetings with parents on the issue. Her school teachers are also working on this problem. However, despite this, even today girls outnumber boys in school. The number of girl students is 693, while the number of boys in the school is 1320.
Dr. Abbu Urera believes that there is a need to open a coaching center in the village. This will increase awareness of higher education and prepare them for competitive examinations.” This would change the study environment.”
Khandawali’s gender ratio is encouraging though Haryana is one of the worst states in this social indice. The number of girls in the village is more than that of boys. The village Panchayat has been honoured for arresting the trend of sex selection.
Mohammad Zahid says, “There is a need for a College for girls in the area. Girls from nearby villages including Bhanakpur, Madalpur, Ladiyapur, Firozpur Taga, and Bijopur have to go to cities for education.”
Abdul Rahim, 70, is happy with the awareness of education in his village. He says, “Earlier the children were limited only to Quran and Namaz. Today, people are progressing in the field of education and becoming cultured.” His grandson and granddaughter are also in class 10th and 12th.
Gram Panchayat has made a special contribution to awakening the spirit of education in the village. Former Sarpanch Nisar Ahmed said, “I got full support from the teachers and administration.” He wrote to the authorities about the shortcomings in schools and he is getting an adequate response.
Former Sarpanch Abdul Sattar says, earlier parents did not pay attention to the education of girls. This has changed.
Even though the children of the village are bringing glory to the village in sports and education, the village is still a cesspool of water due to stagnant water, clogged drains, and a general lack of cleanliness.
The road from the village to the nearest town is in a dilapidated condition.
District Council Chairman Vijay Lohia says the beautification work in Khandawali will start soon. He says the ponds will be upgraded and arrangements made for draining the rainwater. Many other development works including the boundary wall of the cemetery will also be done.