Ajay lives with his parents and three siblings in Kothaba village in Gujarat. His father used to be a snake charmer but was forced into begging after the government banned this profession. His younger brother dropped out after class 9 because of the discrimination he faced in school. Ajay completed class 12 and applied to an Industrial Training Institute for a welding course, but he did not get accepted into the institute. Ajay, too, experienced discrimination in school as the students from upper castes refused to sit with him. Teachers, as well as students referred to him by the name of his family’s traditional profession, Madari. Ajay hopes to find a good teacher who does not discriminate against some students. He recognises the need for practical learning. He wants to join the army some day.
Anisha is 14 years old and studies in Class 9 in Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya (SKV) School in Ghazipur. Anisha loves going to school. She likes mathematics and science but hates social studies. She says that when she started going to school it was dirty but is now cleaner. Earlier, the teachers were not regular, but now they are more regular. However, as the toilets are still dirty, she does not use them. She says sometimes teachers discriminate against children who cannot study or children who are poor. There are however, some teachers who do not discriminate and teach all children equally. Anisha wants to become a doctor because she cannot see people suffer.
Anju is a 16-year-old student from Class 8 at Maninagar Shala 6 in Maninagar, Ahmedabad. It is popular for its status as being the Prime Minister’s constituency. She hails from a community of performers. Anju’s father, who died a few years ago, used to sell maps at traffic signals. Her three brothers lost out on education and started working young. One polishes shoes, one washes cars and one sells maps at the traffic light. All three of them are fiercely protective of Anju and want to ensure she gets a good education. Anju enjoys school because her teachers use interesting teaching tools like videos. The girls and boys play team sports like cricket as well as other games like hide and seek together. Anju works hard and performs well in exams and also received awards for perfect attendance. She feels that a big hindrance to studies is the constant threat of bulldozers, which often raze the houses in their slum. She wants to become a doctor when she grows up.
Ankush lives with his parents in a shelter in New Delhi. His family used to live in a slum close to a stadium but were evicted from there during the Commonwealth Games and offered a plot for resettlement on the outskirts of the city. His three younger siblings study in a school and live in the hostel facility offered to them at the resettlement site. But since his own school was very far away from there, and his father is differently abled, they decided not to move. Ankush faced his classmates’ taunts when he failed his Class 9 examinations. However, he has not given up. He has sought admission in another school. He believes that education should be available to all. He feels that it is also very important for all schools to teach English as well and Hindi and for teachers to inculcate concepts of hygiene among young people. He wants schools to have teachers who are encourage weaker students to do better and spend more time with them. Ankush wants to grow up and serve in the army so that he can protect the nation. He also wants to be able to earn a respectable living to support his parents. He also wants to try and ensure that there are better facilities and livelihood opportunities available for differently-abled people.
Gautam Lal is a student of Class 12 from Jetpura in Rajasthan. He is a first generation learner from a tribal family and all of his six younger siblings go to school. Before he enrolled in school, he used to work as a child laborer where he had to cook and clean. In the course of his employment, he injured himself several times and once even mistakenly got pierced by an iron rod. When he was studying in Class 11, he dropped out to work as a construction worker. Within two months of beginning work there, the Bal Sabha in his area raised the issue of child labour with the villagers and his family and convinced his father to let Gautam continue his education. His father urged him to return and complete class 12, to set an example for others in his family. He wants to grow up and become a teacher to make sure all children study and to put an end to child labour.
Imrana is a Class 12 student studying in Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Seemapuri. She lives with her widowed mother. She loves playing throwball and dreams of becoming a dancer like Madhuri Dixit. Imrana is very aware about gender stereotypes existing in society and the pressures these place on girls. In her own way, she contributed to the safety of women by convincing the station house office of a police station in her area to allocate policemen outside the school to prevent harassment of the students. Imrana is acutely aware of gender roles imposed by society and believes that even boys should study home science and not be weighed down by expectations. She points out that we need to create an atmosphere where boys will learn that they should also cook and help their mothers and sisters with the household chores.
Latesh is a 17-year-old girl and is the third child among five siblings. Studying in Class 10, she hails from Terai, Bulandshahr, in Uttar Pradesh. Latesh says that the best thing about her school is that the students can ask as many questions as they want and their doubts are answered. They can approach teachers and the principals at any time they want. She says that there is a suggestion box in which children can share issues that they are not comfortable sharing in a group. The issues are dealt with by the relevant group or teacher. Latesh used to be shy and timid earlier. However, she has now blossomed as a confident public speaker and this she owes her school teachers, who have motivated her and who she looks up to as role models. She wanted to become a police officer. But now, she wants to pursue her second goal of becoming a yoga teacher as she feels they earn more respect than the police. Optimistic and raring to go, for Latesh, Shikshagiri is an avenue and platforms for children to voice their concerns about education, as they are the future.
Juli is from Washabari Tea Garden in Siliguri in West Bengal. She lost her father a few years ago and her mother works as a migrant labourer in the tea gardens. Juli was pulled out of school and sent to work despite her desire to study. Through the support of a teacher in the school where she used to study before dropping out, she was linked to an organisation that helped children with disabilities like her join the mainstream. She is currently studying in Class 6 in a government school near Siliguri. She loves listening to music and sing. She also loves to learn new things and meet new people. She is concerned about the lack of facilities for children with disabilities and wants the government to pay attention to this.
Mukul is 17 years old whose family moved to Delhi for better education. He has just completed Class 12 from the Government Boys Senior Secondary School. Mukul feels that computer education should be available in government schools. He also added that more focus should be given on the English language. Despite repeated efforts to include computer education there has been response from the senior management. He also says that schools don’t offer career guidance for class 12 students. Another feedback is the school’s apathy towards students in using available resources, like labs and encouraging extra circular activities like sports. Teachers, according to him, are most often rude and even resort to corporal punishment. He wants that the education system should push for respect between teachers and students and their support towards students in their overall development. About facilities, Mukul says there is no safe drinking water and washrooms always stink in the schools. Mukul wanted to be an engineer. However, since his class 10 marks were low he was not able to choose science as a main subject. He now wants to be a body builder.
Nandkishor hails from Ajmer in Rajasthan and lives in an extended family. He studies in Class 9h of the Government Secondary School. He says that all his teachers are good and they love all the children and do not discriminate among them. Nandkishore said that his father recently met with an accident and was therefore unable to walk. He reiterated on the need for gender equality and said that we should not discriminate between boys and girls in school. He said his school has good infrastructure, drinking water facility and playground, and also had special educators to teach small children.
Narender is from Haryana and stays with his family of five in Fatehabad. He studies in class 12 in a government school and is pursuing the science stream. At home he likes spending time looking after buffaloes. In future he wants to pursue his interest in animals and become a veterinary surgeon. He likes Biology as a subject but he is not happy the way biology is taught in school. He feels that usually children move to government schools for class 12, as teachers are qualified in Government schools and private schools tend to charge high fees. Pointing to the discriminatory practices practised by students of private schools towards their peers in public schools, he adds that he had studied in a Hindi medium school till class 10 and for him it was a struggle to understand subjects. Narender has observed that there are still many people in his own community who are into traditional occupation and are not settled. He feels that if Gadhiya Lohars can get a status of Scheduled Tribes, it can ensure access to land and scholarships for education. In his own experience apart from his own family he has not seen people from his own community involved in studies. Shikshagiri for him means those who are uneducated should get an opportunity to access it.
Ramesh is 14 and hails from a village called Mudasel in Banswara Rajasthan. He is the only son of his parents and was raised largely by his maternal grandfather. He dropped out of school for a year after Class 4 to work in a hotel. He had visited his village during a break from work around Diwali and attended a Bal Sabha meeting where he heard about the importance of education. Inspired, he got himself re-enrolled. He also encouraged his close friend, a goat-rearer, to join school with him. He currently studies in Class 7 in a Government school. His favorite subject is Hindi and he loves to play cricket with his friends. He wants to become a doctor when he grows up so that he can take care of all the people in his village.
Sonam is from Bhuwapuri Gazipur and studies in class 7. She has four siblings and faces a lot of discrimination at school, as her mother is a ragpicker. Teachers are responsible for the discrimination, as they give more attention to upper caste children. As a result, she does not look forward to going to school. Major change can happen only when teachers are more inclusive and treat students equally. Inspired by a lady doctor in her village who provides her with free treatment sometimes, Sonam wants to be a doctor when she grows up. This can only be achieved, she says, with dedicated teachers who teach well, emphasising on the delivery of quality education. Through Shikshagiri, Sonam wants to see change in the classroom, where she wants a discrimination free classroom. She wants that teachers take up responsibility towards the most marginalised students.
Uzma is an 18-year-old girl from Delhi, who takes care of her mentally ill mother and siblings with pride. She used to live and beg on the streets in Delhi. She hardly knew that life has anything more than eating and sleeping. From there, it has been a long journey for her to be working at Jamghat, speaking in English and simultaneously pursuing Class 12 through open school. She wants to be an actor. She feels she has been exposed to a lot in her life because of the education she received. She believes that there is a lot out there to learn. She says it is important to have teachers who can understand the students and teach them, who think about their future as well as and help them realize their dreams as well. She has been part of two previous Ground-Level Panels that facilitated people from the margins to input into the post-2015 global development framework.
Aamir and Shweta joined the panel for the last two days of the programme.
Aaamir has recently passed Class 10 examinations and plans to join open school to finish Class 12. He is an avid painter and actor and wants to pursue a career in painting. He also volunteers for a theatre group. Recently, he has come to know about the low quality of drinking water in slum cluster in Delhi and sees it a critical issue to be addressed. When asked about education, he said that private schools are like a hotel while Government schools lack basic infrastructure. He feels the current government school education at is not good enough for getting a secure career.
Shweta lives in Shakurpur, New Delhi with her parents and sister. She studies in Class 5. She describes her school as big and clean. She does not like the fact that her teacher scolds and hits her with a stick. She wants to join the police because she can help bring justice to poor people.