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A 12-Year-Old Choosing Her Own Path
Written By: Sharon Panackal
Sweta has had a hard life since childhood. Her father was an alcoholic who spent all his hard-earned money on drinks, and because he seldom paid school tuition, Sweta had dropped out of six schools by the time she was 11. The courageous little girl asked her father how she was going to get proper education if she was forced to change schools every year. To her disappointment, her father responded by saying that he did not have enough money to pay her fees.
This was one of many hard life lessons Sweta learned as a young child. Once, when she was little, her father tried to lure her into giving him her gold earrings in exchange for money for sweets. Sweta understood that her father was going to sell her earrings to buy alcohol, so instead of giving them to him, she asked her grandmother to keep the earrings for her.
Once it became clear that no one in her family was going to ensure her education, Sweta decided to take matters into her own hands. She talked with a few other girls in her village and learned about the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) Nawabgnj, one of the CARE-supported upper primary government schools in Uttar Pradesh, India. By offering free and quality education, KGBV proved to be a perfect solution for Sweta’s concern of not having any financial support. She cried until her grandfather let her join the school, and she enrolled in the last open seat in 2015.
Since then, Sweta’s headmistress has noticed the changes that KGBV has brought to the clever young student. Sweta started as a short-tempered and silent new student who would not even flinch if admonished by a teacher, but she has now grown into a responsible, helpful and talented girl. She diligently works on any feedback she receives from her teachers and always looks to help others, for example, if a teacher picks up a broom to clean, Sweta gladly picks up another one to help.
Sweta has also learned from others’ lives. After seeing her mother’s wedding photograph, it Sweta discovered that her mother was married off at age 12. Having witnessed the domestic violence and other hardships that her mother has endured, Sweta does not wish to get married until she is well-educated and employed.
In addition to studying, Sweta also enjoys drawing, dancing, singing and acting. Her drawing book is filled with beautiful pencil drawings of people. She also teaches other students to dance, act and speak out the dialogues properly. Being the eldest child in the family, she is thoughtfully building a safe future for herself, her parents and siblings. Sweta dreams of becoming a doctor or an arts teacher. Neither her father nor mother has visited Sweta at the school; however, every time she goes home, Sweta consoles her mother that she will become a doctor and take care of the family.