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Baby Kumari Leads The Way

© Omesh Matta/ UNICEF/ 2008

Bihar: Baby Kumari, 13, lives with her parents, two younger sisters and brother in Ithwarpurpur village, Vaishali district, Bihar. Her elder sister Babithadevi is married. Baby Kumari never had the opportunity to go to school not just because her family was poor and landless, but also because there was no school in the village.

No one from her family had ever been to school. Everyone in the family worked, even Baby Kumari’s ten-year old sister. The daily income earned by the entire family ranged between Rs 50-60. But this was limited to whenever work was available.

When work was available, Baby Kumari would toil on wheat farms, jowari and potato farms. The money she received ( Rs.20) was spent to buy food for the family. When there was no work, she collected firewood, fetched water, washed utensils and did other household chores.

When Sarva Siksha Abhiyan in association with UNICEF, Pratham and MV Foundation started a non Residential Bridge Course (RBC) camp, their workers asked Baby Kumari’s father to send her there. They thought he would not have objections as he had agreed to send his son. While her father was not against it, Baby Kumari’s mother refused permission. She maintained that education was not necessary for a girl who was ready to enter wedlock .

But the NGO activists were undeterred. They visited her every day trying to persuade her. Finally, after many days they were able to gain her confidence.  When Baby Kumari’s mother admitted that she wanted a better life for the children, the activists told her that education could help in changing and improving the quality of their lives

When she heard that Baby Kumari could begin learning even at 13 and use education to improve her future, she agreed to send not just her but all her three daughters to the RBC.

Baby Kumari’s father is still poor and landless. However, he has stopped sending his children to work after understanding the importance of education,  He and his wife have also realised there is no age or gender bar for education, Today, all the children, including the three girls, are studying.

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