Encouraging girls to dream big

Photo: Ranjani working on her worksheet 

Gajadharpur is a quiet village tucked between densely populated Baharaich city and busy town of Kaiserganj. The village home to about 3,000 people. 13-year-old Ranjani Gupta is one of them. Ranjani lives in the village with her mother, father and four siblings- an elder brother and three younger sisters. Much like her village Ranjani herself is a quiet girl, unfazed by the chaos of the world around her. While most children in her class enthusiastically call out the answers to the questions of the teacher or wrestle with each other to be the first ones to show their notebooks to the teacher, she patiently waits for her turn. One will often find Ranjani reading her books or working on her assignments, unaffected by the mischief her friends are upto. Her poise and patience is also evident in her resolve for learning and supporting her family.

“I want to be the District Magistrate when I grow up”, she said with a resolute tone.

Her father, a street-side vendor, wants her to study as much as possible and have a life much better than what he could lead. Ranjani’s father’s earning dipped significantly during the pandemic. With no alternate source of income, the family was faced with tough financial choices and her brother could not register himself for class XII. Her father regrets not having the means to let Ranjani’s elder brother continue his education and vows to not let his children become street-side vendors. Ranjani’s mother aspires that her children, especially her daughters, pursue higher education after schooling and become financially independent.

Ranjani is enrolled in class seven of Upper Primary School Gajadharpur. Like many children of her village, her education took a severe hit during the pandemic. Schools were shut leaving online modes of learning the only viable option for keeping pace with school syllabus. Unfortunately, her family does not own a phone with internet connection. Accessing videos, notes, or other assignments shared by school teachers is not possible for her. School teachers provided her with textbooks but without regular support from family or teachers, she found it difficult to understand the curricular concepts. Months of disconnect with the school had also decreased her confidence to read and write simple sentences. Without losing hope, she began her journey with CARE team’s community STEM learning initiative in November 2020. As a part of the initiative, Ranjani and 250 other children from 5 districts of Uttar Pradesh were provided with worksheets, STEM learning boxes, and stationary items with a mission to build scientific and mathematical skills and minimize learning gaps that might have resulted due to school closures.

Easy to comprehend language and exciting illustrations of worksheets encouraged Ranjani to quickly overcoming her initial struggle of reading and writing. She also enjoys setting up hands-on activities and experiments with her friends. She is particularly interested in observing the nature around her and always has curious questions to ask us, “How many types of leaf patterns exist?” and “How far can a bicycle wheel roll”. Anjali Tiwari, a CARE’s team member who has been mentoring Ranjani for the past three months, is inspired by Ranjani’s ability to articulate her thoughts and poise she exhibits in all situations.

This initiative is a part of CARE’s Teacher Resource Laboratory (TRL) project which aims to equip the younger generation with the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical skills to become future leaders and innovators. Learning resources designed as a part of this initiative encourage children to get together with their friends and conduct exciting hands-on activities. The initiative also gives an opportunity to girls to step out of their houses and talk, share and discuss ideas with their friends.