Suman Devi age 25,by profession dhobi (washerwoman) stays in hutments near river Ramzan called Dhobi Patti in Kishanganj Town.
Nasima Khatoon age 18,works in tea garden in village ManiramBhitta.Nazneen age 14 do household chores and in free time plays around in village Bhagkharna.
Parwati kumari age 34 housewife and mother of 4 young children, village Bharagharia.
One thing was common among them, they were all illiterate, unsure of themselves cocooned in their small world.
But that was past After one year they are as articulate as any urbanite. They have high self-esteem and proud to showoff their new found skills in reading and writing. And the biggest of all freedom from putting thumb impression. Kishanganj district has a dubious record of having lowest literacy level in whole of Bihar. The worst sufferers are the women who due to illiteracy and ignorance face exploitation at all levels.
They are unable to join the mainstream. In such a bleak scenario, we thought that it would be difficult to convince people especially womenfolk to enroll in the literacy centers and convince them to study every day. But we were pleasantly surprised when they jumped at the idea as if they were waiting for the opportunity. Another heartening fact is that their fathers and husbands also encouraged them to study.
The criteria for deciding these villages were non-availability of any formal school in the vicinity or absence of infrastructure in government schools and number of potential beneficiaries. The selection of the teacher was done in consultation with the villagers and subject to the availability of at least one matric /inter pass woman teacher in the village. They even offered their homes as temporary place to run the centers.
Thus the mud houses of Ranu Sinha, Majda Begum, Jahanara and Dilshad Begum were transformed overnight into teaching centers with blackboards, floor mats, books and slates etc provided by the Foundation. In other villages also, people provided free space for running the centers.
The method of teaching is non-formal involving local dialect Surjapuri and in some centers in Bengali to help the women learn effectively .In these centers women are taught to read and write at their own pace. The Foundation has also printed its first booklet in Hindi titled Pahla Kadam for neoliterates. There is no age bar for the students. Even older women attend the classes. Some centers function in the afternoon after women finish their household work and some in the evening when they return from their fields. An attendance register is maintained duly signed by the teacher and project coordinator who regularly visits the centers. Side by side they are given information on health and hygiene and other relevant issues.
The involvement of the community has ensured smooth functioning of these centers and made the teachers accountable to the task they have undertaken. Our main aim is not only to make the women literate in the technical sense of the term but also to help them become conversant with simple math involving transactions, calculations and opening of bank account etc to inculcate confidence in them. The main reason behind the success of project Pahla Kadam is the fighting spirit shown by the village women and their families. Their desire to achieve what may seem trivial to many is really commendable.
Number of Villages: 35
Name of the Villages:
Jalalpur Hindu tola
Jalalpur Muslim tola
Meerbhitta Dakshin tola
Noori basti Pateshri
Kasba Kaliya ganj
Paharkatta Ruhi tola
Number of Beneficiaries: 929