In Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh,Anupshahr is a small city which has a cluster of villages. Here, girls were treated no less than invisible wombs. They were the faceless who would never reflect in the family tree. The reasons were deep-rooted gendered notions like-
- Books are no good for a girl as all she ought to do is ghar ka kaam (household work)
- We are poor and cannot sustain our daughter’s education
- We would rather spend the money on our son who will support us during our old age
- She is our daughter who herself is paraya dhan (The one who belongs to someone else), how can we use the money she earns?
These ‘conformist’ reasons rob a girl from her right to education and are still commonly accepted in most parts of both urban and rural India.
One school in Anupshahr challenged all these notions and stereotypes in the year 2000. The school uniquely named as Pardada Pardadi Educational Society is currently standing tall as one of the model rural schools in India, changing lives of more than 40,000 families in the villages so far. This school was set up by Virendra Singh, locally famous as Sam,
An all-girls day school that doesn’t ask for money but instead deposits money for per day attendance in girls’ accounts, imparts vocational skills that make them employment-ready and has a full-fledged placement mechanism in place, is Sam’s magic model for rural India that dwarfs parents’ every pre-conceived notion on not educating their girl child.
The school offers a unique Educational Package to village girls wherein, tuition fees, books/stationary, uniforms, healthy meals (3 times a day), transportation, timely medical check- ups etc. are provided free of cost. Along with it, a scholarship of Rs 10 is deposited in her bank account for each day’s attendance. By the time she finishes her class XII, she would have about Rs 40,000 in her account. The parents can get her married with that money or spend on her higher education, they are told. The idea is simple, quality education, life-skills, leadership skills that are imparted in the school would be propagated to other rural girls in the village and the parents would be incentivised to send their girls to the school.
Sam, for one, is witness to such countless stories. After being a top business professional at DuPont in USA, he could have easily retired in an armchair at a plush house in the United States, but with his strong Indian roots, he was restless to return and make a difference to his native place. He knew that the seed of education needed to be sown somewhere and Pardada Pardadi was that seed. 15 years hence, Pardada Pardadi, stands as a beacon of knowledge for thousands of village girls, who are currently working and providing for the family. They are no more faceless, identity-less beings made to just rear children.
The story behind the school’s unique name-Pardada Pardadi
Pardada Pardadi means great grandparents in English. On the unconventional name, Sam sheds light, “Through Pardada Pardadi, we are constantly reminding them of their great grandparents, we are telling them that you must not hide your roots and be proud of your current being.”
Sam further points out a question at the citizens of the country, “If a dummy like me who is not an educationist, who has not done any social work can create a model like this in Anupshahar city in 196 villages. What is stopping you all to create a same model in every Anupshahr of your own district?”
Meet the soul of Pardada Pardadi
While Sam is the founder of Pardada Pardadi, Renuka, Director, is the soul of the place. PPES is on her mind 24*7 and every girl, every teacher, every donor, every volunteer just can’t stop raving about the persona she embodies. Her dedication for the cause, her grit to battle all odds and despite taking all the tumbles, standing her ground each time is a rare quality that she stands testimony to.
Renuka feels that running an NGO in Uttar Pradesh for a noble cause may look wonderful from the outside, but for making things function smoothly, every person in the institute always has to be on their toes!
“Volunteering gives me happiness”
Volunteers come here from far and wide and do their bit for the institution. For instance, Michael Rudy from Florida has been a voluntary teacher for almost a year now. He teaches Maths, Music and English and is a favourite among kids. The students at Pardada Pardadi have also made some documentaries on social issues. While the work is amateurish, it takes up hard-hitting subjects that the girls in Anupshahr have to face.
Bringing Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai to Anupshahr
When you call Kingdom of Dreams, a theatre and entertainment destination in Gurgaon, to book tickets telephonically, your call gets transferred to Anupshahr where girls trained at Pardadi Pardadi’s skill centre book your tickets.
Similarly, covers for Blackberry clothing are stitched here by the village women and girls. The idea is simple, create job opportunities in the villages which have skills, manpower and a burning fire to perform and do better than others. The results have been extremely encouraging and keeping this in mind, PPES is now diversifying to create a separate vocation-based institution called iVillage– from village to the world.
iVillage is being ably guided by Arya Mahajan, who left her high-paying corporate job to do something challenging and bringing change at the grass root level. Arya says, “I have lived in Noida and Mumbai, the metros are getting stuffed with people migrating from villages in search of jobs. There is not only space crunch but quality of life is being compromised too.
Hence, iVillage will focus on creating multifarious job opportunities and provide skills to the villagers so that they can sustain themselves in a better way.”
[“source – dnaindia.com”]