Early this morning we went to go see the tailor’s family, but they were out of town. I also wanted to go see Jamanaben and see Usha’s family to talk to her parents about sending her to school. They live behind us in a separate line of houses. The class that they are from are called Ravaryos because their last name is Ravar. It’s kind of hard to explain, but they typically earn less, have their daughters married early, and don’t make much money. They also work for the people that live within the village and often have a lot of kids to do work.
Like I mentioned in the previous post, a lot of people said that it won’t be possible to educate the Ravars. However, as I set out to see Usha I was determined to get at least a few girls to send to school.
Behind our house we saw Jamanaben scooping up water buffalo’s poop and taking it to a pile not too far away. We started talking to her about the place we found for Teeny. At first she was excited that Teeny would have somewhere to go after she was gone. We went to Usha’s house (Jamanaben’s two sons live next to each other) and started talking about sending Teeny to Sahyog Ashram. Her brothers were quick to say yes because they didn’t want to have to take care of Teeny if anything happened to their mother. There were about ten family members talking really loudly all at once while naked babies ran around. Although it was ultimately Jamanaben’s decision, everyone had something to say. Jamanaben had her doubts but in the end she decided to see the place then send Teeny.
We started talking about sending Usha, Pinky (I thought she said her name was Priyanka, so I kept calling her that and she never corrected me until now haha) and their one younger sister to school. Dhurabhai, their father, pointed to youngest three daughters and said, “We don’t need them to do work; they can go to school”. The youngest that he pointed to were only around, one, three, and four years old. We told him that only one of them will be able to go to preschool and the other two are way too young.
I could tell that Pinky really wanted to go to school, but their father sternly stated that Nita and Pinky (the oldest two) will not go to school. I could tell that their father didn’t want to send any of the six to school because he stayed quiet most of the time and barely responded to our questions. Instead, the other nine family members that were standing around would throw in comments. I knew it was ultimately up to the parents but they would say things like, “what’s a girl going to learn?” The comments made me angry and I knew that being in India for only a month during the year wasn’t going to do anything. Although my cousin’s husband, Rajubhai will be handling everything in India (checking up to make sure they’re going to school every day, sending me reports on their progress, etc.), it won’t be the same.
Since I met Usha and her sisters, I’ve developed a close connection with them. As a girl, I’m able to talk about education and show how important it is. They need that support and constant reassurance that getting an education will make a difference in their lives. I almost wish there was someone here that could do that, but all the girls here are either boarding in another town or don’t think educating a Ravar is important.
We decided that Usha will go to school along with her younger sisters when they’re old enough. As I was writing Usha’s second youngest sister’s name down, I asked her uncle what her name is. He couldn’t remember her name! I was really surprised that he didn’t know his own niece’s name. When he asked Usha’s dad what her name is, her dad couldn’t even remember. Eventually they told me her name, but I didn’t completely believe that that was her real name.
As we were talking, another girl, Paru came over. We asked her if she goes to school and were proud to see that her parents support both her and her sister’s education. We knew that once the daughter reached 8th grade, her parents will have difficulty paying her fees for a good private school education. The village school doesn’t give as good an education and most people that live in the village send their schools to the nearby towns such as Himatnagar (15 minutes away) or Gandhinagar (30-45 minutes away).
After talking to Paru and her parents, I knew that we had to support them. I told Paru and her sister, Manisha, to come to my house so that I could take pictures of them. When they came, they brought to of their friends Kinjal and Puja. I saw that the girls had so much potential and such a drive to learn. Unlike Usha’s parents, their parents were fully supportive of their education. I knew Usha’s education would be a struggle, but it’s something I’ll have to work on even with my few days that I have left here.
After, we went to another Ravar’s home that is located on the other end of our village. The parents have two sons and three daughters. Of the five, they have a son named Rahul who is currently in 8th grade and is going to a private school in Himatnagar. The other four children didn’t go to school and are a lot older than Rahul. My cousin’s husband told me about Rahul and we decided to go to their house and meet his family. Rahul lives in Himatnagar and boards at the school so we didn’t get to meet him, but we did meet his parents. When we got to the house there were goats everywhere (they raise goats and also grow potatoes). Rahul’s father, Ramjibhai, brought out Rahul’s grades from the past couple of years. In the past few years, Rahul has been ranked either first or second in his class. Only once has he been ranked 6th or 4th. I was amazed at his grades because they were all within the 95 to 100 range. Rahul’s dad told us how this year’s payment weren’t paid in full because he couldn’t afford it. He also promised to pay 10,000 rupees to the school upfront, but could only fulfill 4,000 rupees this year. 4,000 rupees is only around $80. With Rahul’s fees being around 40,000 rupees, there is no way that his parents can afford to pay his tuition this year or until he's finished his education. We decided to pay for his education and his dad was so happy.
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to meet Rahul this year, but I’m definitely looking forward to meeting him next year.