Sunita Baberia’s Story

 

“We wake up before the last twinkling star gets consumed, and quickly brush our teeth. Ablutions over, it’s time for breakfast, and then onwards we march to school.”

Bharti case story 1Nine-year-old Sunita Baberia sings these lines in her native Bhili while walking ahead of us, her bare feet playfully producing clouds of dust. She is leading us to her home, situated at a five-minute walk from her school in Piploda Bada village of the Meghnagar block in tribal-dominated Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh.

The school song is a new acquisition. Barely a year back, Sunita was one of the several children of this tribal community who had to drop out of school and accompany her parents to the neighbouring state of Gujarat. For a vast majority of families inhabiting this region, seasonal migration is the only constant in life. Lack of livelihood options, coupled with erratic rain patterns leading to parched fields, repeatedly push these impoverished people to neighbouring states of Gujarat or Maharashtra where they work as unskilled labourers and save enough for a few months. And then the cycle repeats.
Despite a strong inherent urge for education, Sunita’s ambitions were beset by her family’s chronic poverty that forced her to accompany her migrating parents and kept her from joining a school. In June 2015, upon her return from Surat in Gujarat, Sunita’s family was approached by Education Volunteers (EVs) from Humana People to People India (HPPI). At first, her grandmother, a feisty 60-year-old, was apprehensive of the EVs’ persistence of sending Sunita to the nearby Government primary school. She vehemently defended her decision to not send her granddaughter to the school, arguing the latter’s function as a productive earning member of the family.

However, sustained efforts by the EVs paid off and today Sunita has been successfully mainstreamed as a 4th grade student at Government Primary School, Piploda Bada. During the nine months spent at the HPP-run Step up Centre, Sunita received specially designed content for accelerated learning and individual attention from EVs that filled her academic gaps, while providing much needed social conditioning to re-join the mainstream classes at the school.
With a focus on developing overall personality of children, the programme at the Centre lays special emphasis on improving personal hygiene and social habits, while addressing their academic needs.

Sunita’s story has inspired many in her village and her elder sister, Sangita, recently enrolled at the Centre. Sustained contact by passionate EVs is imperative to change the generations-old mind-set towards significance of education, as proven by the Step up Centre’s engagement with the families of the region. Sunita’s grandmother, today, is a vocal supporter of girls’ education in her village and as a village elder has been encouraging more families to send their children to the school.

As for the barefoot girl with a song in her heart, Sunita is on her way to achieve her ambition of being a “doctor one day and help people of her village” in times of their need, one step at a time.

 

Read 14 more inspirational stories from Step-up centres in Madhya Pradesh here 

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About HPPI

Humana People to People India is a development organization registered as a not-for-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 as of 21st May 1998. It is a non-political, non-religious organization. Its mission is to unite with people in India in order to create development in the broadest sense through the implementation of the projects that aim at transferring knowledge, skills and capacity to individuals and communities who need assistance to come out of poverty and other dehumanizing conditions.

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