(Written by Alex Binoy and Pavan Khengre)
A few months ago, Sheetal Londhe’s son, Gourav, a Class VI student in an English-medium school, came back home and told his mother that his classmates were making fun of him.
“They made fun of him because I was a school dropout, while their parents were educated. That hit me hard.. and I made up my mind to start going to school again,” said Sheetal (31).
Sheetal had dropped out of school in Class VIII as her family was facing some financial issues. “Even my father had not completed his studies. He dropped out in Class V. So, I made up my mind to start going to a night school and decided to take my father along with me,” she said.
Sheetal, a widow, and her father, Vaman Bappu Londhe (56), work as sweepers in the same bank. Her husband died in an accident when Gourav was only 8 months old. She and Vaman recently got admission to the Pune Night High School and Junior College, run by the Saraswati Mandir Organisation on Bajirao Road.
“After my husband died, the entire responsibility of taking care of the baby fell upon me and my parents. With better education, we will be able to handle financial issues in our home and give my son a better future,” said Sheetal.
Established in 1920, the Pune Night High School and Junior College is one of the oldest night schools in the city.
Sheetal and Vaman are, however, not the only parent-child duo studying in the school.
Kaveri Bhaskar (38), and her son, Pratham Bub (17), study in the same night school. In fact, Kaveri was once a student of the same school, before she dropped out in Class IV.
“My son is a special child and used to study in special schools. One day, I decided to get admission for him in my old school because I knew it also ran a night school, so that I could take care of him during the day. When I went to see the principal, Avinash Takawale, he suggested that I come back to school, and take classes at night with my son. After a gap of over two decades, I have come back to school and I am very happy about my decision. I had dropped out due to some family issues but now, I have the complete support of my husband and father-in-law,” said Kaveri.
Both Sheetal and her father Vaman are in Class 8 (A) and they sit on the same bench. Kaveri and her son are also enrolled in the same class.
Avinash Takawale, principal of the Pune Night High School, said, “There are many students from poor backgrounds who drop out of school and start working to supplement their family income. Many girls have to drop out because their families marry them off at a young age as they still believe that a girl child is a burden to the family. This is why education is important, to dispel such beliefs”. Takawale, who has worked in the school for the last 30 years, said he had seen people “understand the value of education” through the years.
Last year, 543 students enrolled in the school and this year, over 600 students have already enrolled, and admissions are open till August 31. The night school, for students from Class VIII to Class XII, runs from 6 pm to 10 pm. Any person above the age of 14 years is allowed to get admission in Class VIII. Hailing the performance of the students, Takawale said, “The academic performance of my students is good. They work all morning but are still able to concentrate on their studies. They know the responsibility they have taken. Even with the same syllabus and the same examination as day school students, my students are able to achieve the same marks as them, sometimes even higher.”