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Mangi Devi. Educator.
streaming video — 03:20
My Name is Mangi Devi, I am a resident of Tilonia village. The Tillonia organisation ‘Barefoot College’ is about 30 years old now . I have worked in four different departments. I started in the handicraft section and now I am in the education department.
My fathers village is about 35 kms away from here, it’s called Bhiwanwadi. I was illiterate when I arrived here and the organization provided me with education and now I am literate. I belong to the Barwasamaj caste, people from this caste usually are into fieldwork and farming.
I don’t remember when I got married, it was a child-marriage. It was not common to give a dowry in our caste. My family gave a few small items but my in-laws were not asking for money.They wanted the girl and it was good so. My in laws are good and till this date me and my husband don’t fight. We work independently.
My husbands’ name is Tejaram. He works in Kishangar and he has no issues with the organisation here. He is very supportive and we don’t interfere in each others professional life. It has been said that a car has 4 wheels and if one wheel doesn’t work then car doesn’t move and my life with him has been like that.
I have 2 sons and they also have kids who are 28 and 25 years of age. And I have an older daughter too. I am a great-grandmother. I am about 55 years old.
Before coming to the college, I worked as a farmer. I went to different places where there were jobs to do, like in Punjab and Harayana. When my husband got a job in Kishangar (close to Tilonia) and the Barefoot organization was formed we came to Tilonia.
I don’t feel like going somewhere else. My mind is here. There is no discrimination in the organization and they strongly support women. Tilonia village is like my home village now. Me and my husband are not millionaires. We were very poor and we had to work hard to overcome our poverty but now we get two meals a day so I wont say we are poor anymore.
I heard about Barefoot College just as another organisations’ name, but than we came to know that they gave jobs to the old and the poor. I came here to check it out and they gave me a job. No qualifications were needed to come and work here. That starting time of Barefoot College Aruna Roy was still very active in the organisation and she helped a lot and supported us to get ourselves jobs and she advised us to think about what is right and what’s wrong.
We got no specific training, that starting time of barefoot. I learnt slowly and gradually, hands-on. We didn’t know how to work on sewing machines and we all took small loans and helped the handicraft section to grow, and the organisation was growing at the same time. They supported us a lot. And with the help of Aruna Roy we learnt about banking transactions and taking care of our own accounts. She explained how important the ‘the right to information’-act was, and made us understand where we stand in life. From healthcare to general information she helped us a lot.
Than she had to go somewhere else. She had to do some important political things. She seriously listens to the problems of other people, on a level where the government does not reach. She went to help, to highlight the problems of the poor. Aruna Roy never made a difference between litterate and illiterate women. She drank tea with us and it was a very good feeling. She was like a family member to us.
We don’t miss her as we all have to do our work. She works for the good cause and we still keep in touch. And when we need help we have Bunker Roy’s assistance.
At present I am responsible for the nightschools, for the educational section. Before, the students learned only till the 5th grade and afterwards they went back to farming. The orgnisation thought they should get these children further educated. 53 students got a longer training at the Barefoot nightschool, and now some of them work here too.
We targeted nightschool students as they have not been taught as profoundly as dayschool students, and we want to give them a similar education.
For some children there are certain restrictions for dayschools as they have to help on the land or take care of the cattle during daytime. As poverty is the basic reason for not going to school, the orgnisation thought that they should start with nightschools because education is a must. In the beginning boys came in larger numbers than girls but now 70% of the students are girls. Barefoot College thinks that the difference between day- or nightschools is not the most important, but to get a good education is important.
We have about 10 people in the committee and they go and see the parents to convince them that education is a must and if they can’t afford to send their kids to dayschools then should at least send them to nightschools. And also girls should get themselves educated as they are a generation behind but I’m sure that the upcoming generation will not hesitate any more to go to school.
We basically teach them to read and write and we teach them about social behaviour and attitude. We organise events where they can show their talents and skills. Everybody who can make a change or teach interesting things can come and learn them. We don’t focus on one particular thing.
We have a monthly conference here during which we teach them how to write letters. Now we also learn them how to vote and why is it so important. The official age to vote is 18 but even when they’re younger we make them understand the importance of the political system and about the procedure of democracy so that they know what decisions to take later.
The Barefoot College took the initiative for starting the nightschools. First they organized 2-3 schools nearby this village and then the government started to organise such schools around India. Since Barefoot focuses especially on girls’ problems, 70 % of the students are girls. Earlier the boys came in large numbers.
At the end of the year we organise exams. The nightschool teacher will ask some questions based on what he has taught. Then we have an exam for the area and some of the older pupils from the nightschools were willing to do the exams of the dayschools. In dayschool they gets 6 hours of education and in the nightschools they get only about 3 hours. These girls wanted to study more and wanted to submit themselves to the exams of the dayschools. They even cleared the 8th grade and than we asked them to clear another 2 grades as the 10th grade is the first recognised diploma exam. When you pass there, getting a job becomes a lot easier.
After 5 years in nightschool the orgnisation gives the graduate students a certificate with which these students can complete the 8th till 10th grades in dayschool. With a 10th grade certificate, they easily can find a government job.
The nightschools have no restrictions like uniforms, students don’t have to pay for books. Therefore parents can afford their children to go to nightschools and the number of students is increasing.
Some of the students are pursuing further education after nightschool, but not all families can afford the costs of the studies. But we see that a change is happening and more and more families realise that the fact of study and education is very important.
It’s up to the children themselves if they leave the village after their sudies. Ofcourse it’s great if they take the village a step ahead with what they learned, but they have to decide themselves if they stay or if they move on.
First of all we want our students to progress. Whatever they go to cities or stay here, they should succeed and we want them to be happy.