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Building Her Future with KGBV

Written by: Sharon Panackal 

I met with Susheela Devi at a KGBV in the Shrawasti district of Uttar Pradesh. Beautiful, with neatly tied hair and a nose ring, she is a studious and multitalented girl. She is the only daughter to her mother and a sister to four brothers. Her father passed away when she was 10 years old, and since then, her maternal grandparents have looked after the family of six. It was her grandfather who enrolled her at the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) after she graduated from class five.  

Sitting in a corner of her dormitory, Susheela wrote about her journey to the KGBV in a beautifully moving language.

Without her father, living became very expensive for Susheela’s family. Being a class eight graduate, her mother wanted the children to study, but she did not have enough money to educate any of them. Susheela’s grandfather came as a helping hand at that time. Although her grandfather enrolled her and her eldest brother at a primary school in their village, it soon became impossible to find enough money for both of their tuition. Susheela wrote that, at just 11 years old, she thought she would never get to go to school again. However, to her relief, her grandfather enrolled her at the KGBV.

Susheela is now a brilliant student, and although it was hard to stay away from home at first, she has now grown fond of staying with her friends. Respecting those who are older, recognizing good from bad, thinking of the welfare of the whole country and planning for her own future are only part of what Susheela has learned through her KGBV education. As we were talking, the headmistress of the school asked her a math question and Susheela solved it within seconds without a calculator or even a book or pen.

Extracurricular activities at school gave Susheela the opportunity to learn to sing, and she beautifully sang two Bollywood songs for us. Susheela’s other talent is drawing. As a part of celebrating India’s Independence Day, she had beautifully painted many of the students’ hands with henna. Susheela’s favorite subject is English and her hobbies include painting, singing and playing cricket. She told me that thinking about the betterment of the country inspires her to join the police or military service.

Often at KGBVs, there is a mutual learning relationship among students and teachers. Susheela’s headmistress was homeschooled throughout her life, and because of that, she did not have opportunities to learn any extracurricular skills while growing up. By speaking, singing and painting along with the students, she is learning new skills as well.

Susheela’s wish is that, as long as she studies, she gets to study at a school like KGBV with the kind of teachers she has now. She understands that without KGBV, it would have been hard for her to pursue higher education without having her father near. However, having a school like KGBV makes it easier for her and hundreds of other girls like her to receive quality education, nurture their talents, and often, discover a way forward.