Twenty-five years after she had dropped out of school, 35-year-old Marjeena Abdulbhai Bloch passed her secondary school certificate (SSC) examination, the results of which were declared last month. She passed it along with her daughter Tamanna (15), who had also dropped out of school in Class V because the school was far from their village of Vora Kotda at Gondal in Rajkot district.
Marjeena and Tamanna got themselves enrolled in a school run by an NGO, Pratham, at Awas Colony Centre in Gondal. They managed their daily routines and took time out to study. Marjeena scored 56 per cent and Tamanna 58 per cent, studying through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
When Tamanna enrolled in the school, her father expressed concern about her going there alone. That is when Marjeena stepped in to accompany her, and decided to complete her own milestone in formal education.
Marjeena admitted that it was very difficult for her, having studied only till Class II and that too a long time ago, so she would stay up late to study. “Having a small one-room house, we were not able to study late as family members would complain about the lights. So we would read under the street lights,” she said.
Tamanna wants to continue her education and support her family financially. Her younger brother also dropped out of school after Class VII. “Since we shifted to this colony, which is far from the city and the nearest school is 7 km away, we could not afford an auto-rickshaw. So my son dropped out of school,” Marjeena said.
The mother-daughter duo are among the 403 of 441 students who passed their SSC exams through Pratham from four districts of Gondal in Rajkot, Mehsana, Dholka in Ahmedabad and Ankleshwar in Bharuch.
Pratham recorded the highest pass percentage at 91 since 2012, when the ‘Second Chance Programme’ was launched. Programme officer Renu Seth said they wanted the state government to initiate open school centres for women like Marjeena and Tamanna, with at least one in each district.
“We have requested Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama recently and will be pursuing it further,” she said.
Tejal Rabari (20) from Dholka in Ahmedabad district was married at 12 years as per the community’s customs and will move in with her husband in a year or two. She had to quit school a few years ago when her family could not afford education for the children.
Things changed when her brother got a job in the city and decided to enroll all his three sisters in the school. “My brother believes that in today’s world it is important to have basic education. He understands the importance of a secondary school certificate in the job market,” she said.
However, not all in her family agreed. They had one regret —- the family lost Rs 15,000 in the last 10 months as Tejal had to quit one of her day jobs as a cook.
“It is good that she has her SSC certificate, but we also lost the money she would earned by working as a cook at a nearby hotel,” said her grandfather Jaksibhai Rabari.
Tejal wants to join the police. According to the family, over the last year, she has become more confident and inquisitive.
Another girl from Dholka, Riddhi Parmar (19), dropped out of school in Class VII as her father’s health problems took a toll on her education. She has now enrolled at Rai University in Dholka, attending computers and spoken English classes.
“For the first time I felt liberated,” said Riddhi.