Bhagyashree has finished her 12th std and is now enrolled for an electronics course. She also works as a nanny. She recalls her experiences with the Akshara programme, particularly the friendly teaching atmosphere. She feels that Akshara opened up new avenues, widening a world that was limited to the village and school. Speaking English with the MUWCI students on the campus was a good exposure — studies plus enjoyment. Bhagyashree has kept in touch with Akshara so that she can be of help to other students.
The best thing about Akshara is that it plans ahead of time. The students are always the centre of all the planning. At the time of 10th std exams we were allowed to study on the MUWCI campus. We were given bicycles to go to the school. That saved a lot of time. Otherwise we had to walk down from our village to the school. It was fun to cycle down to the school.
Jyoti is a living example of someone who will not give up on her dreams. Her father is a security guard and one brother an engineering student (with Akshara support). The family lives the hard life of so many poor dalits, surviving on the bare minimum — but Jyoti is a dedicated college student, enthusiastic about both academics and her love for theatre.
With the confidence she gained from being part of Akshara, Jyoti can now talk confidently about many issues. She wants to be either an actress or a film director. In Garware College where she studies, she is directing a play for Pune’s prestigious annual inter-college theatre competition (Purshotam Karandak) and has been to Delhi for a performance.
I learned how to take notes and study on my own in 10th . I was so used to use guide books that I found it very difficult initially, but I wrote answers in the SSC exam by reading books and studying on my own. Now my parents treat me as well as my brothers. They think very highly of Akshara and we siblings get all the support for education because of my parents’ understanding of Akshara’s work. My parents don’t use plastic bags anymore.
Dhanashree’s mother supported her family by rolling heaps of papads every day. With a father addicted to liquor, Dhanashree and her sister were sent from Pune to stay with their grandmother in Asde village. Since their grandmother was old, the sisters did all the household chores before they went to school every morning. They fetched water, washed clothes, cooked and cleaned. Through all this, Dhanashree worked hard at her school tasks, finishing school and later gaining admission at UWC-USA where she completed her IB diploma. This year, she will join Methodist College, USA.
I am aware of the possibilities Akshara has opened up for me. My elder sisters never got any opportunities of this sort. The elders in my house now respect what I do and they also give lots of support. My grandmother now says that even girls can support the elders in the family. My elder sisters got married early but with us, it won’t happen.
Vidya is a graduate of UWC-Singapore (2011-13). Rebellious from childhood – she was a tomboy who spent much of her time playing with boys – Vidya was often in trouble in her village school, despite being a good student. So she found the Akshara teachers with their friendly and understanding ways a big relief. It was also nice that they encouraged boys and girls play and work together.
After she has completed her education, Vidya would like to contribute to Akshara’s work with the Katakari tribals.
I was happy to be selected for the UWC in Singapore. I had never even been to Pune alone, and here I was going to another country! I was scared, but when I started studying the IB course there, I realised that I had done so much of it in Akshara! The only difference was that now it was in English.