Jyothi Kumari, 15 years old, is full of energy and always ready to help her friends and family. She re-started her education after enrolling for a scholastic training course offered at the Project Lehar Laksh centre where she is diligently preparing for her Class 10 exams. Jyothi aspires to become a teacher so that she can help other students get an education.
Aga Khan Foundation’s (AKF) Project Lehar, which means wave in Urdu, works to empower and improve the quality of life of out-of-school adolescent girls. Begin in 2015, with support from the United Nations Population Fund, Project Lehar is being implemented in select urban wards in Bihar’s capital, Patna.
Before attending Project Lehar’s Laksh centre, life was quite different for Jyothi Kumari. After dropping out of school, the 15 year old says “I used to constantly laugh at everything and argue a lot. I wasn’t in school and was just helping out at home, looking after my siblings and waiting for my marriage to be arranged.”
One day a community mobiliser from AKF arrived at Jyothi’s doorstep to inform her family that a nearby centre run by AKF was offering scholastic training for girls who had dropped out of school. Excited by the prospect of meeting and learning alongside other girls her age, Jyothi was keen to attend the centre. Since the training was nearby, and only for half a day, her father and mother, both of whom are manual labourers, agreed that Jyothi could go as she would be able to continue her household responsibilities for the rest of the day.
Jyothi has been attending the centre for the past year and a half and is now preparing for the Class 10 exams. Since attending the centre, her family and friends have noticed Jyothi’s dedication to her studies, managing them alongside her daily household chores, as well as how much she has matured since attending the centre.
Though Jyothi is well known for her bubbly and warm-hearted personality, she often used to disrupt class by laughing and talking during lessons. However, through the life skills training Jyothi says, “I learnt how to behave properly in different settings and my teacher really helped me to improve my habits and be less argumentative."
“We all live like sisters. If I eat from one plate, then I feed my best friend, Najiya Rani, from the same plate. Here, we do not see different castes or divisions.”
Jyothi’s time at the centre has also directly helped her family. She tells us about the time she helped her family by writing guests’ names for her sister’s wedding cards, a skill she improved upon at the centre and which was really useful for her family since no one else apart from her father knows how to write. These experiences have shown Jyothi and her family the benefits of education, encouraging them to support Jyothi in her academic pursuits even after she finishes the scholastic training at the centre.
At the centre, Jyothi has also built strong bonds with other girls: “We all live like sisters. If I eat from one plate, then I feed my best friend, Najiya Rani, from the same plate. Here, we do not see different castes or divisions.” Jyothi’s teacher says that she has been touched by the compassion the girls have shown to one another and how when Project Lehar organised a girl’s festival earlier in the year, Jyothi helped her differently abled friend, Najiya Rani, see the fair by carrying her on her back.
“I am going to serve my country by becoming a teacher and educating children.”
In the past two years, Jyothi’s plans for the future have changed and she now hopes to become a teacher. “I am going to serve my country by becoming a teacher and educating children,” she says, demonstrating how when girls like Jyothi are empowered, they become positive change agents in their own communities, inspiring others and championing the cause of education.
The Enabling Secondary Education and Employability Adolescents Project
Project Lehar enables girls from marginalised communities living in the Phulwarisharief and Danapur areas of Patna to pursue either scholastic or vocational skills training. The scholastic support being provided to the girls in centres established by AKF aims to build the girls’ learning levels so that they can either re-join formal schooling or prepare for the Class 10 Board examinations.
Vocational skills training is also provided at AKF’s centres where girls are trained in skills that are in high demand and will enable them to earn better incomes and gain financial independence.
Cutting across both the scholastic and vocational skills courses is life skills training which helps the girls build their confidence and understanding of how to successfully overcome the challenges they face in their day to day lives.