Bisro: Chhattisgarh woman returns to formal education in her late 40s

Age is just a number for Bisro, a woman of resilience and determination

There’s a lot to learn from Bisro Mandavi, a woman of resilience and unwavering determination, from Kanharpuri in Chhattisgarh. Her early years were marked by financial hardship which prevented her from getting a formal education. Born into a family of daily wage labourers, she was the middle child among two brothers and three sisters.

Bisro never went to school or got access to education until she was 16. At the age of 16, an opportunity emerged like a beacon of hope – a free Ratri Shala – a night school, an initiative by the people in her village. She seized the opportunity and enrolled herself at the Grade 5 level, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the school closed down, leaving her without a passing certificate.

Bisro got married at the age of 18 and soon became a mother. Amid household and childcare responsibilities, her dreams of education were put on hold. She came to know of the ‘Samtulyata Pariksha’ program, a part of Sakshar Bharat, an initiative of the state government. This program offered another chance to pursue her studies, this time at Grade 8 in the local government school. But as her family grew, household responsibilities took precedence, and after completing Grade 8, she had to discontinue her education once again.

After a gap of 15 years, at the age of 48, in 2023, Bisro was led to Pratham’s Second Chance program, which was a turning point in her life. The Second Chance program is designed to help women and girls, who couldn’t finish school, to complete their Grade 10 exams, in the hope that this academic certificate would further their opportunities for educational growth and employability.

With the unwavering support of her family, Bisro embarked on this journey, which required her to cross a river to attend classes at the Second Chance centre. Despite facing taunts and societal judgements that questioned her decision to return to school at the age of 48, she remained resolute. After completing Grade 10, she now aspires to continue her education through an open board. She believes, “Learning and education are not limited by age, and one should always seize the opportunity to learn.”

Bisro currently works as a government health worker in her village, known as a Mitanin. She took this job to support her family while effectively balancing her studies and job responsibilities.

Bisro was driven from the very beginning. She felt the need of education every time she went to the bank or boarded the bus and wanted to read and understand herself, instead of seeking help from others. Her story is a testament to the idea that education knows no age limit and the boundless potential that resides within us.