When Mamta Nishad reached Class 8, she wanted to continue studying. But Mawaiya Uparhar does not have a high school, and the people in this village in Chaka block of Allahabad district in Uttar Pradesh usually do not send girls to schools that are far away.

Mamta spoke to her teachers at the Poorva Madhyamik Vidyalaya. She told them about her ambition to study further. Together, they came up with the idea of a procession – accompanied by the beating of drums – that would go around the village and halt at various houses that have children in school, especially girls. They would recite poetry and sing songs, and the teachers would publicly urge parents to send their children to school and let them continue studying after Class 8.

The school principal, Usha Rani Srivastava, the primary force in executing this idea, also participated in the procession, as did gram sabha member Ganga Prasad, and other school children and teachers. The procession was led by Mamta. It halted at her house too. Eventually, her parents Prem Chandra Nishad and Ram Rati Devi, and her elder brothers, agreed to support her academic plans.

But how were the fees and distance to be covered? Mamta’s teachers trained her for a district-level scholarship exam. Balancing her daily chores and regular schooling, she worked hard for the exam, and was selected for state-sponsored residential schooling at the Mahamaya Rajkiya Ashram Paddhati Balika Inter College, Kaurihar, Allahabad, around 40 kilometres from Mawaiya Uparhar. Mamta is now is the first girl from her village studying in Class 9.

The procession has become a regular bi-monthly or monthly event in Mawaiya Uparhar, Mawaiya Gadraan Mawaiya Kachhar and Mawaiya Tikuri – the children of these four villages go to the Poorva Madhyamik Vidyalaya.  Mamta has become a role model for other girls and students of these villages. The teachers say that school attendance has improved and the attitudes of parents have started to shift in favour of educating girls. When she visits home, Mamta is called to the Vidyalaya to speak of her experiences at the new school and of life outside the village.

A change that was not possible for years has been set in motion by a spirited procession led by a school girl.

Saurabh Chandra

Saurabh Chandra has an MTech in electrical engineering from IIT Roorkee. He was a visiting faculty member at the Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, and is now preparing for the Indian Civil Services examination.

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