“Hum logon ko school jaane se mana kar dia tha kyunki koi le jaane waala nai tha, aur school bohot dur hua karta tha (We were stopped from going to school because there was no one drop us and the school was very far),” said 60-year-old Rihana Khatoon about the fate of her schooling and of her two younger sisters. Four decades later, the condition of education in the village of Karaundi has seen little progress. Situated some 80 kilometers from Lucknow, Karaundi has been largely unaffected from the progress of the urbanised capital city of Uttar Pradesh in its vicinity.
The rich zamindars of the village, who have sustained their wealth even today, and a few families with members doing odd jobs in either Saudi Arabia or Dubai have been able to send their children to good English medium schools in Lucknow as they could afford settling in the city and its lifestyle along with the education of their children, while the poorer families of the village are still scouting for a school which offers classes beyond high-school or in some cases, matrix. This class divide reflects profoundly on the availability or the lack, of education for children – and augments itself when it comes to women’s education particularly, as it becomes a case of ‘need’ depending upon the wealth of the family.
Within Karaundi there is an Urdu School and a Government Primary School— while the former is a part of a religious establishment, the latter has seldom been functional. A privately owned school working till eighth standard is the nearest school from Karaundi. It is roughly a kilometer away from the village. The first proper intermediate school is an hour away in the nearby town of Neora. It is affiliated to a far away ‘center’, for which students have to travel long distances during the examinations. Adding to that, the school only has humanities or traditionally called ‘Art Side.’ Such large scale scarcity of schools and geographical impediments is the root cause of female students to drop out of schools.
“I have studied till class tenth, I wanted to study more but there were no schools nearby and my parents would not allow me to attend some remote school alone. My brothers refuse to take me with them,” said 18 year old Naseema (name changed). While her brothers are about to finish their schooling, Naseema’s parents are in search of a suitable match for their daughter. The ramifications of gender disparity is foremost realised in the access to schooling, from thereon, the differences transude into the economic, cultural, political and social aspects of life.
A large amount of female students in Karaundi do not have access, avenue or agency to pursue their education beyond primary level. Some who do get the opportunity, at most finish their intermediate, there are only few exceptional cases who were fortunate enough to go further than that, albeit the number is almost negligible. This is most likely because of the infrastructural deterrent. There are less schools, and lesser funds. Hence conveyance is unavailable, and following that, so is proper education for girls. Economic and social factors are also catalysing the availability of education for females in the village. The percentage of educated women varies depending on the class and caste.
A docile subject of ‘achhe rishtas’
Female education in the village is never as important as her marriage. Passing intermediate, in some cases even high school, is enough for a girl to be of ‘marriageable age.’ Twenty one year old Gausia is pursuing her Bachelors in Education from a college in Patranga, a semi-developed town near Karaundi. She is also a teacher in a local private school. Her father’s sudden demise was the reason for her to be married as soon as she completed class twelfth. However, Gausia’s in-laws supported her education and career ambitions – that itself is an anomaly in a village like Karaundi. She said, “Family members marry their girls off under the pressure of gaon waalein, who believe that getting a high-school certificate is enough.” She added that, “No matter how good a girl is in her studies, if she gets a suitable match according to her family, she is married. They don’t even ask the girl if she wants to be married or not, they stop her education and simply marry her.” Gausia told us that even if in some cases the family would be willing to send their daughters to school, then poverty becomes an obstacle.
Daraksha is now 27 years of age and the mother of a 2-year old boy. She was the UP Board topper of her zila in twelfth standard. She wanted to do a graduate degree course further, but was married off by her parents. She always wanted to be a teacher, but unfortunately her education came secondary to becoming a ‘good life partner.’
The story of female education in the village of Karaundi is a microcosm of the dominant culture of female education prevailing in the rural Eastern Uttar Pradesh and truth be told, in most parts of India. As one of the poorest states of India, with one of the lowest literacy rate, Uttar Pradesh has a long road ahead for progress. Here, education for girls is reeling under poverty, urban-rural divide, lack of infrastructure, orthodox customs and traditions, but most of all, under ignorance.
Featured image source: The Logical Indian