Updated: July 1, 2021 5:29:19 am
Newspaper advertisements, television campaigns, social media publicity material, WhatsApp display pictures of officers — the smiling face of six-year-old Jashneet Kaur, is everywhere these days.
Jashneet — dressed in her school uniform with two neatly tied plaits — has become synonymous with almost all of Punjab education department’s activities and social campaigns, like Each One, Bring One (enrolment drive for government schools), Ghar Baithe Sikhsha (online education), Library Langar, Mission Shat Pratishat, among others, in the past three years.
But behind Jashneet’s innocent face, lies the typical story of almost every rural household of Punjab.
Jashneet’s mother, Sukhdeep Kaur, wanted a son as her first-born child. Instead, she was blessed with a daughter.
“Initially I used to feel very bad that I had not given birth to a son. It was a terrible feeling. I always wanted my first child to be a son. But today, even my daughter has made us proud, even more than what a son could possibly have. I was so wrong…” said Sukhdeep, who lives in Wara Bhai Ka village of Faridkot district.
Jashneet, now in Class 2 of a government school in Wara Bhai Ka, is the daughter of Jagjit Singh, a small-time factory worker, and Sukhdeep, who is a homemaker. The only child of her parents, her father makes just Rs 7,000 a month working in a thread factory. The family also owns a small chunk of land (3.5 acre) which they have given out for contractual farming.
Sukhdeep, who herself has studied only till Class 12, added, “Jashneet’s father, paternal grandfather, and grandmother were very happy when she was born. They never complained or differentiated between a son and a daughter. His grandfather even distributed her Lohri which is done after a son’s birth. I had some regrets initially after her birth, but today, when I see my daughter’s face in newspapers, on TV screens, and on social media, I feel so very proud. When teachers say that my daughter is a very bright student, takes part in all activities, and is always very active, I realise that she has made us more proud than a son could ever have, that too at this young age.”
Jashneet’s parents had admitted her at Government Primary School, Wara Bhai Ka, in 2017 in the pre-primary section. But like others, they too wanted their child to be educated at a private school. “Jashneet is our only child. So, we wanted her to have the best education and tried to get her admitted to a private school, with whatever little savings that we have. But then we were told that the village’s government school had been turned into a Smart School and had all facilities like that of a private educational institution,” said Jagjit Singh, Jashneet’s father.
“The day Punjab’s education secretary, Krishan Kumar, came to meet her, took photos with her, and declared that she was Punjab education department’s brand ambassador, my heart had swelled with pride. Today, my daughter has photos everywhere and people know who Jashneet is. Krishan Kumar held my daughter in his arms in front of everyone and we will cherish that moment forever,” added Jagjit.
Rajinder Kumar, the head-teacher of Government Primary School, Wara Bhai Ka, said that Jashneet’s photographs had drawn the attention of education secretary, Krishan Kumar, following which he enquired about the child. Later, Krishan Kumar also visited our school and met Jashneet in October 2019. She was then declared the official brand ambassador of the Punjab education department. Her photos anyway were being used by the department since 2018 for promotion of several activities and campaigns.”
“Earlier, we used to think that if we had a second or a third child then we might have had a son. However, now we absolutely do not want that. Jine naam roshan karna hai, kar hi dena hai, munda hove ja kudi (If a child has to make you proud, he/she will, doesn’t matter if it is a son or a daughter,” said Sukhdeep.
“Everyone says I am a good kid… I enjoy studying maths. I feel happy seeing my photos everywhere,” quips Jashneet, sitting next to her mother, a smile on her face.
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