Hailing from an Adivasi tribe in Sapkata village in Baksa district of Assam, Maina Hembram is the only child of her parents. The bright 16-year-old is fluent in her mother tongue – Santhali – in addition to the Assamese language, and speaks a little bit of English too.
Maina’s parents had to take up odd jobs to make ends meet and provide her with a decent education. They even managed to enroll her in a privately run English-medium school, where she continued studying up to class VII, but had to drop out when her parents could no longer afford to pay for her schooling.
It all began when Maina’s father took up a job as a truck driver in Arunachal Pradesh in 2015, and would send some money home. Over the next three years, however, the family’s financial situation worsened. Finally, in 2018, her mother decided to head to Tamil Nadu to work as a daily wage labourer.
She left Maina – then in class VI – under the care of her uncle and aunt. The money Maina’s parents had been sending to her uncle helped fund her school education for some time. However, by end-2019, when the money stopped coming, Maina was compelled to drop out of school. Confined at her adopted home, she began babysitting and tending to her uncle and aunt’s children.
In early 2021, the Assam Education team from Tata Trusts was visiting Sapkata village as part of an exercise to identify Out of School Children (OoSC) – those who had to drop out of school for different reasons and circumstances. During their visit, the team found five such girls who had dropped out of school; Maina was among them.
After discussions and sharing information about the objectives of the programme, the Trusts team convinced their relatives and village community members to send the girls for a motivational camp being organised at the Tamulpur Girls’ High School nearby. During the 15-day camp held in in March 2021, the girls were counselled on the importance of resuming their education and building a career for themselves. This helped transform the girls’ mindsets and help them dream beyond their current circumstances.
Happy days ahead
Post the motivational camp, Maina was enrolled into class VIII at the Tamulpur Girls High School – around 10 km away from her home – where she resumed her schooling. Barely two weeks into her classes in April 2021 the second wave of Covid-19 struck, and lockdown was imposed. Maina’s school, too, had to shut down for the time being.
The Trusts’ team promptly launched a Whatsapp group for the school’s students and supported them through online remedial classes – by preparing fresh audio-visual learning material and exercises – so that their education wasn’t disrupted through the pandemic.
Currently, Maina is in class IX and has been attending regular classes. She has also been playing football, and representing her village team. Her classmate Saraswati Kisku adds that Maina likes dancing too, and creates videos on ethnic tribal dances featuring artists from her village.
Her school’s Head Teacher (Principal) Hari Narayan Das informs that the school has provided a bicycle to Maina, so that she can attend school regularly. This is part of a programme in the state’s government-run secondary schools to support girl students whose families live below the ‘poverty line’.
Lutfur Ahmed, an Education Facilitator with the Trusts team, who identified and brought Maina to the motivational camp, says, “Maina was a bit reserved when I met her and she hardly spoke. But she was keen to continue her studies, and we ensured that she got the required support under our programme. I am very proud of her and happy to see her dedication to study against all odds.”
Children like Maina now have hope to continue with their education, thanks to the efforts of the Trusts and its partner organisations who work tirelessly on ground to prevent students from dropping out of school, and inspire them to dream of a brighter future for themselves.