It is evening in the outskirts of Hyderabad, where I have come to observe an Urdu learning camp run by a young woman named Sherine. A group of local children and I sit in the small but comfortable room where class is being held. I watch as Sherine engages the kids with stories, discussions and a variety of hands-on activities and am amazed at how eagerly these six- to ten-year-olds respond to her teaching. One or two are so enthusiastic that they even attempt to teach me some Urdu. (No easy task.) Soon the lesson is over and it is time to leave. But Sherine insists I first meet her parents. “How incredible,” I think. “She is running the camp in her house.”
From her parents, I learn that not long ago, Sherine was an eighth-grade dropout whose educational journey seemed to be finished after her father’s unemployment forced her to leave school. Pratham’s Second Chance program, which was free and near her home, made it possible for Sherine to complete her education while also fulfilling her household obligations.
They single out one teacher as being particularly inspirational: Parveen Sayyed. A former teen volunteer, Parveen is now head of the Pratham Urdu program, responsible for developing all educational material and programs in Urdu. “She made it clear to us,” Sherine tells me, “that we too could do great things if we set our minds to it.”
Passing the secondary school exam enabled Sherine to move forward in her education—and beyond expectations—by enrolling in college where she studies Civics, Economics and Commerce. While this is itself an achievement, Sherine went a step further: by deciding to run Pratham’s urban camps in the evening, it is now she who has become the inspiration for others. Myself included, as I say goodbye and step into the darkness of the Hyderabad night…
– Excerpted from a field report by Arvind Eyunni, Program Associate