Gitanjali was just like any other hapless tribal girl of zara sabara community in a remote backward village of Gajapati District charting for an uncertain future amidst poverty and drudgery. Gitanjali’s parents were not sure whether education could be of any use for their daughter. This came to the notice of a field coordinator of KISS who after repeated counselling could convince them to send her to KISS. Initially, they were reluctant to move out of home partly because of social taboo and more so as she was a helping hand for sibling care and domestic chores. Though enrolled in primary classes, Gitanjali skipped school vey often due to work at home; she too was not motivated much for education as there was no precedent among relations and local community.
“English is a dreaded subject for tribal children, so I too thought, but not now. Learning was a fun and easy at KISS; today I can think, write and express in English, in fact I have opted for English Honours by choice.”
She was taken aback when landed in the campus. Everything was new and strange much different from her home and village. She was delighted to see a large number of boys and girls of her age jumping around in joy. She felt relaxed as some of them introduced themselves and assured her about a very comfortable stay and caring atmosphere of the institution. The peace, comfort, cleanliness, quality of food, electricity, accommodation, ambience of the study campus, hygienic life style at KISS was just like a dream or fairy tale to her. She fell in love with the institution at once and remained a firm believer in its goodness and contribution to the tribal child’s life and future.
She never looked back after first entry at class IV. Now she is a student of first year degree course in English literature. Her feelings and excitement can be gauged from her bright face and glittering eyes. When asked about choice for higher education, she said, “English is a dreaded subject for tribal children, so I too thought alike; But not now. Learning has been a fun and easy at KISS; today I can think, write and express in English, in fact, I have opted for English Honours by choice.” Wonderful, isn’t it? But honestly, I owe this to my teachers, peers and mentors here. Well, it is really a different and empowering experience in this centre of academic excellence for budding talents from tribal communities! Now Gitanjali aims to become an English teacher in future and build students for smarter and better career with a strong footing in English.
We chanced to meet her along with parents in recent meet organized for them. Her mother broke into tears while narrating her joy of seeing her daughter at such heights in thought, deeds and career. Being illiterate, they lacked basic literacy skills. But all that has changed now as Gitanjali taught them the letters and helped them to acquire functional skills. “I feel proud when I sign the SHG passbook or any document where earlier I used to put thumb impression. More so, I have made by peers sign too. We cannot be cheated so easily” she added. Gitanjali with the help of her mother and other village women is spreading awareness on development and helping them to fight against social evils.
Gitanjali’s turn around to this crusade has a link to the plight of her elder sister who underwent a harrowing experience after getting married early at the age of 14. Gitanjali laments “My sister too could have excelled in career only if she could get the anchor like KISS, but now onward I will aware people to save and support their daughters.” As her wounds echo around, one cannot but think that KISS has made Gitanjali stronger ever!