Today, Savita has topped her class. She is the envy of her friends and cynosure of her sister-in-law, Mahima. More importantly, she is a harbinger of change for children whom she teaches and is trying hard to get other out-of-school children back into school.
Four years back in Nayagoan village -in Lalgang district of Uttar Pradesh- Savita used to accompany her parents to dig trenches, mark trees and fence forest boundaries.
Her parents saw nothing wrong in it. After all, she was adding to family income, something all the other children in her village did. Savita was paid Rs. 10-15 per day.
The northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state of India with a population of 200 million. A large portion of the 8 million children currently out-of-school in India comes from this state.
In summer of 2011, the marriage of Savita’s elder brother was going to change her life forever
Before her marriage, Mahima was a member of the self-help group (SHG) in her village. The SHG works under the guidance of the Child Protection Committee (CPC) in her village. The CPC, a basic village level committee, is responsible for creating a safe environment for children in the villages, with special focus on the prevention and elimination of child labour.
Mahima didn’t want Savita to suffer her fate. She saw a spark in Savita and wanted her to continue the studies. For a year, she taught Savita at home till she got to a level where she could be admitted to school.
For Savita, getting to the top is just the start of her journey, a journey that she intends to walk together with other out-of-school children and children for whom school is an uninteresting place.
Savita is now also a young member of the Child Protection Committee and the leader of the adolescent girls group of her village. Her confidence and desire to learn shine when she smiles.