Day 16 Slice of Life SOL19
Banisha joined our school in its second year. She was already eight years old, but had been at a school in a small village, where children basically showed up and got marked off on the register and learnt almost nothing. She quickly learned to read and write, using phonics. Then she sped ahead of others in the kindergarten class, so we were able to let her skip a class at the end of her first school year.
Her story is pretty similar to about eighty per cent of the families attending the school. She has a mum who really doesn’t know much about being a mum, she never even bothered to apply for her birth certificate until she was fourteen years old. Her father has long gone. She had a lot of problems before she came to our school with ear infections and ended up with a perforated ear drum from an infection that was never treated. I took her to an ENT specialist in Shillong several years ago and he put grommits in her ear to drain any fluid out. Finally she could hear, without us having to shout at her. But I have to say, she is still a little deaf and I’ve found it’s better to talk to her face to face.
Banisha has always thrived on love and affection and quickly learned to speak English quite fluently and how to do well in tests (basically just learn your answers by heart). She’s always been a little serious but with the warmest smile and a very sweet spirit. Sometimes I think she is just amazed that people actually care about her.
When she left our school after completing Class 5, her mum took her back to their village and we were concerned she might drop out of school or end up pregnant, like so many of the local girls.
She did keep in touch occasionally and even dropped in from time to time and I was thrilled to hear she was still (somehow) continuing her education. Like many girls, she worked as a maid in the home of a family, who in return paid for her school fees and books along with giving her food and a bed. It’s hard work and if your employer isn’t kind, the child ends up pretty much a slave. We found that Banisha’s employer was very demanding, so she definitely doesn’t want to go back there.
Right now she is doing her Year 10 board exams for matriculation and has come back here where the exam hall is located. She is staying with one of our teachers and studying hard. It’s tough when the exams are not in your mother tongue! Her final exam is tomorrow and she will then have to wait about three months for her results.
I’m excited to see how she does and I hope we can find somewhere in the area where she can complete her schooling over the next two years. I believe she has the strength of character and purpose that is needed to change the face of poverty in this town.
Banisha with my daughter and another ex-student. I hope to see girls like these two stand up and help to change the future of this town.