Singsing like any other 15-year-old girl loves going to school. She is the second youngest daughter of the four girl child of their family. She is an average student and wanted to continue her studies in spite of her family’s poor financial condition. She hails from Khambi village in kamjong district of Manipur. By profession, her father is a carpenter. The village being one of the remotest, there isn’t much demand for carpentry works to earn a stable income. Her mother is a cultivator and toils in the field full time to feed the family of eight siblings.
She did her early schooling in one of the private schools called Tribal People Training school (TPTS) from nursery to sixth standard. Further, she joined Phungyar Higher Secondary school which is a government school as the family couldn’t afford private schools anymore. She told that she also had a great passion for volleyball which she was good at. And we even got the chance to witness her volleyball skills in their village’s Trial Volleyball Match that happened at sports day.
On being asked about the hardships she faced in attending school these are the few things she shared. On her very words, “I would like to share some of the challenges that I faced almost every day. First is the distance of the school which is around 8.2 kilometers far from my home and the road to the school is risky and mountainous. I had to walk this distance every day in order to attend the classes. During scorching summer days, the way back, home was not something a child would ever want to experience.
We would feel tired, hungry and thirsty after spending 5 long hours in school and then walk back such a long distance with heavy bags on our back. Some days the teachers simply wouldn’t turn up and our eight kilometers distance journey to school on foot seemed unworthy. This happened very frequently due to shortage or unavailability of teachers.”
Among many other challenges they faced, poverty was undeniably notable and being a girl the feeling of insecurity on their way to school was another. Her classmate boys with whom they attended school together were from the same neighborhood and they were good friends. But news of girls being molested, raped and murdered would worry them and a sense of insecurity creeped. She also said, “I cannot lie that my heart didn’t feel scared or my spine didn’t chill while walking through the forest covered road in the company of boys.”
She would always remember her mother’s tears of fear and worry upon hearing stories of assault against women in our country. She also kept in her mind the hard work her parents put to send her and her younger sister to school so that they build a better future. Besides all these hardships her eagerness to study and be successful in life made her brave through and face these challenges. She says, “this empowers me to put more efforts in order to complete my studies.” She was told once that, even an average student can become successful in the future and not every great person was a class topper in their school. These words rang through her as she told that, “Amei Mahai (Brother Mahai, a Teach For North-East Fellow) your words encourages me further.” Before leaving their house, she was asked again, “instead of walking more than 8 kilometers everyday which is quite tiresome, why don’t you guys come and stay in hostel in Phungyar? To which she replied, “There is no one to come and oversee me in the hostel. And my mom says it’s not safe for a girl to stay in a hostel with no hostel warden.”
Further in the evening, Mahai, the Teach for North-East Fellow had a good time with the village pastor who had a generous heart and an honest personality. While devouring a bowl of boiled corn, we had a long discussion about Khambi’s social economy and the condition of children’s education. We had a good chat on student’s challenges in attending school at Phungyar all the way from the village. He lamented along the same line that the students feel so exhausted after returning home. It definitely had negative impacts on students’ academic performances such as poor attendance and inability to do their homework’s after a tiring day especially for primary students.
The pastor further mentioned that most of the parents wished for a proper hostel facility in Phungyar. They dream of providing better schooling for their kids. They also hope for the day to come when these poor children wouldn’t have to walk through the long and dense forest road carrying heavy books, battling the merciless weather.
We all hope and pray that one day no child has to walk 8 kms to go to school in search of Good teachers, better opportunities, accessibility to learn and a safe space to grow.
We keep dreaming and we take this movement forward.