Bhubaneswar: It was a day to cherish for the 50 young girls from the Shikharchandi slum in Bhubaneswar, as they donned their finest clothes and boarded a bus to the Centurion University situated on the outskirts of the city.
A good number of these girls who are high school drop outs and now working as house maids and construction workers, today ditched their routine chores to have an experience of why completing school was so important.Close to 200 adoloscent girls in the slum are high school drop outs and the trend continues.
Today.s exposure visit was aimed to the help build motivation and interest among these girls in continuing their education while giving them an idea of life as a students.
The girls went around the university campus, taking a tour of different skill centres, observing students in classrooms, visiting a sports centers, and library. They watched how girls of their age had mastered different skills viz tailoring, bakery, coffee-making, home nursing , carpentry etc and had a promising career ahead of them.
The interaction with the students enrolled in these skill programmes revealed how a number of them , despite many odds and their poor background had struggled to complete their education.
The visit was completed with an interactive session were the girls discussed questions like – Do you want to complete school? Why or why not? What would you like to learn after school? What do you need to do to make sure you go to college?
“It was inspiring to meet these students here who gave us a new ray of hope. We understand how important education is and I will do everything possible to complete my matriculation,” said Manga –a class 7 drop out from the slum.
Manga had stopped going to school after her parents decided to enroll her younger brother to an English medium school but not her. “I stayed back to protest the decision thinking that they would give in to my demand and put me to the same school but nobody bothered. Months passed but they never even coaxed me to go to my old school,” says the 15 year old who is now preparing for the class ten examination under the State Institute of Open Schooling.
Helping Manga and the girls like her are the teachers from Project Cheysta –an initiative for adolescent girls supported by the Australian High Commission.
Implemented by VIEWS, a city based organisation, the project handholds adolescent girls –both high schoolers and dropouts in the age group of 13 to 25 to complete their education by providing them the requisite support in terms of remedial classes , coaching , skill trainings , life skill lessons, career coaching and more at a Resource Centre set up inside the slum premises .
“Our resource centre can be conveniently accessed by the girls as and when they find time. We have been working closely with 100 girls, 10 of who (dropouts) will be appearing the matriculation this year itslef.,”said Sarmishtha Dash, the project coordinator.
“I always thought what big deal it was to complete education. Girls will have to be married away anyway. That was what I was made to believe at home. But this exposure visit helped me understand how quantity and quality of education is important and how it can help determine one’s ability to earn better money and more importantly to make a dignified living,” said Mohini, another student.