(Author: Pramod Sridharamurthy)

Second PU results came out last week. One of the girls, Pragati (Name changed) , supported by ILP scored 71%. Everyone at ILP was extremely happy at the achievement. Even NDTV came over to cover her as part of their series on education. Surprised? And wondering why a girl, who scored 71% marks, became this significant, when the first rank student in Karnataka probably scored 98% or more.

That is because, this girl, who scored 71%, started her schooling for the first time, when she was 11 years old! She was a forced domestic help before that, who was rescued by Karnataka’s child help line and an NGO called Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA). Pragati has had a very difficult childhood, which most of us have only seen in movies.

Driven by poverty and not being able to take care of her children, Pragati’s mother left Pragati, when she was only 6 at the home of someone she thought she knew, hoping a brighter future for her child. That someone, who promised to send Pragati to school, ended up using her as a domestic help. Not only did that person get work done from this little kid, but also made her life hell by beating her or locking her up, when she did not complete her work or when she asked him to put her to school or even when she begged to be sent back home.

Dealing with the torture for 5 years, Pragati finally managed to escape from that place and was rescued by APSA. So, at the age of 11, was the first time she started learning. Since she was too old to start formal schooling from Kindergarten, APSA trained her in an informal school for the first two years. At the end of her 2nd year of schooling, she directly appeared for her 7th standard exam and cleared it! It was a commendable achievement, which helped her join formal schooling.

She was then sent to Chiguru, which runs a girls hostel for children in need of help. Chiguru has been a long-time partner of ILP and students of Chiguru are supported by ILP for their education. With strong determination and support from ILP and Chiguru, she completed her 10th with 73% and now she completed her 2nd PU with 71%, scoring 95 out of 100 in Business management. Beyond studies, she is an amazing dancer and choreographs her own dance sequences. She also teaches dance to the other kids in the hostel and performs during the Annual day celebrations. She has plans of taking up a full time job in a bank while pursuing her passion of dancing. She also wants to setup her own dance school!

Pragati is just one such child, we were lucky enough to support. It is amazing to see how such kids do so well inspite of unbelievable hardships they have been through. Most of us are very lucky to have grown up in a safe family environment and hence don’t realize what it means to not have one. We see children working without going to school all around us without realizing that there is a Pragati in each one of them. Like APSA/Karnataka’s Child help line came as Pragati’s guardian angel, these kids are unknowingly waiting for their angels to rescue them from the clutches of work and put them on the path of freedom through education. It takes awareness, sensitivity and perseverance to help such children… qualities which we all should have. It’s a small step for each of us that can not only change the life of one child, but many others who are part of that child’s future. 

This 71% is no ordinary 71%. This is 100% results against all odds!