Pooja was known as a studious girl in class 10 who was quite regular in attending school. Her Class Teacher, Mr. Narayan Lal Bhatnagar, recalls Pooja to be a well-behaved girl who was consistently good in studies who also fared well in the exams. Little did anyone even realize that things were about to change for Pooja in September, this year. Mr. Narayan Lal found Pooja missing in class. Soon, he was informed that she had done something that was supposedly a taboo in the village, a strict ‘No!’ in her community, something no sensible girl would dare to do… Pooja had eloped.
When the teacher decided to throw his ‘judgmental cloak’ aside and reach out to her parents, he realized that the father of the girl was evidently disappointed and assured him that his daughter would not step into the house again. Back in school, even the Principal wanted Pooja’s name to be removed from the Shala Darpan portal through which she was receiving her scholarship.
Mr. Narayan Lal knew that he had to do something; something to help this young girl he knew who deserved better than this. He knew that there were other kids who like Pooja had eloped earlier and found all doors closing behind them as they left the community and education behind. He felt Pooja deserved a second chance and he will do something about it.
He soon contacted Pooja over the phone and understood that she was hiding in a nearby village and was safe. His concern now shifted to her safety if she could be convinced to return home. He decided to meet her parents once again and gently, reassured them that everything will be alright if only they would give their child one more chance. Days were long and made Mr. Lal cross lines as he kept shuttling between the girl, her parents and the school to ensure that education must reassure and keep children in school and anything that stands as a blockade in this path must be set right.
Finally, the girl returned – returned to her family, returned to her community, returned to her school and to her friends. She did receive her share humiliation initially – especially from her classmates; yet, the constant reassurance, non-judgmental attitude and unconditional faith her teacher had on her, made her survive through such situations.
Teachers like Mr. Narayan Lal who go out of their way to open doors to give children a second chance are indeed the true, unsung heroes in communities where we work.
These efforts to bring about a progressive change by adopting multi-component intervention strategies that seek to reduce early marriages and teenage pregnancies in order to ensure the right to education for the girl child is implemented by IPE Global Limited in partnership with the Government of Rajasthan supported by Children’s Investment Fund Foundation through Project Udaan.