When my sisters and I went to college my father left each of us with the same truth: “College is about learning how to learn”. It was not, of course, until after we failed our first exams and called home in frenzies (as college students do) that the line unveiled its impact. Our parents knew that each of us would call home in our first fall semesters saying that we were not cut out to be at the University of Michigan and therefore they were prepared to remind us that “everyone fails” or “we are putting too much pressure on ourselves” but most importantly they would say that, “College is about learning how to learn”.
Pratham’s Second Chance Program instills this same value in its students. When I speak to the women I ask each of them if they feel like that they have been changed from the program, to which each one answers yes. With definite growth in each of the seven subjects, it is the increased confidence that has had the strongest effect on the women. One student, Safiya, answered that, “Before this I did not have any idea about my life or what I wanted to do. Now I have the confidence to do something, anything.” I am able to quote her directly, mind you, because I was able to speak with her one-on-one. Safiya is a 21-year-old woman who has nearly perfected her English throughout her one-year at Pratham, after being away from school for nine years. To say she is amazing would only be selling her short. She not only spoke to the value of her own education, but also what she has learned about educating the larger majority. Safiya emphasizes the importance of a mother’s role in a child’s life, stressing that to educate a mother is to educate India as a whole.
The Second Chance Program succeeds in both written instruction as well as cultivating personal growth in women and I have personally seen it play out in each woman that I have spoken with. Safiya is one of the many examples. Though Pratham’s success does show through many of the women passing the final exam, The Second Chance Program focuses on much more than teaching to the test. The program articulates the many forms of education beyond the classroom, and the many roles that women can take now that they have their education. Most clearly stated, Pratham’s Second Chance Program is about “learning how to learn”.
Over the past two weeks I have been given the opportunity to visit each of the three urban centers across Jaipur– Chandpole, Eidgah and Bhatta Basti.
I have also been to three of the six rural centers within villages outside of the city of Ajmer. Without surprise, each center that I have visited and each person that I have met has been inviting and welcoming. Further, the girls at the centers have been some of the most admirable people I have met. Through nothing short of perseverance, personal strength and dedication they have made the choice to continue with their education.
My boss ensures me that my speaking with the women will help to motivate them in their education. She says that their hearing the similarities between American and Indian culture as well as sharing how our experiences are similar will further motivate them. However, I am not sure if she knows just how much each woman is motivating me. I am strengthened by each woman’s drive to learn and her dedication to herself; Her perseverance to continue with her education, no matter what is standing in her way. Each woman has truly taken it on herself to become empowered through her education.