Uttar Pradesh | Samina Bano: The girl who makes RTE work

Lucknow: When a diminutive girl in her late twenties took small steps to address a gathering in Chief Minister’s residence here, no one thought that soon she will give sleepless nights to big school giants in Uttar Pradesh.

Samina Bano, now heading the Bharat Abhyudaya Foundation (BAF) in a span of six months did what even Uttar Pradesh government could not achieve in a year. In 2014-15, only 54 poor students were given free admission in schools under the economically weaker section (EWS) quota under Right To Education (RTE) Act. After her crusade, the number in 2015-16 has swelled to over 1,300 and is still counting. Among those admitted, nearly half the children are from minority community.

Not an easy task as during her efforts, she rubbed several high and mighty in the wrong way. City Montessori School (CMS), which boasts of holding a Guinness Book of World Records for highest number of students studying in a school in one city, denied admission to as many as 31 poor students. After her persuasion failed, Samina did not hesitate to protest on road. Lucknow witnessed something un-usual as nobody at the CMS ever thought in their wildest dream that people will stage dharna outside their office. The battle is still on and is presently in court.

From a privileged background to working for underprivileged, the journey has been a long one for Samina. Her father retired as a warrant officer from the Indian Air Force while her mother has been a homemaker. She has two brothers, one elder, one younger. “Being an Air Force kid, I have spent childhood in many cities such as Delhi, Pune, Bagdogra, Belgaum, Srinagar in Air Force campuses. My schooling was done throughout at Kendriya Vidyalayas, although thanks to my father’s transfers, I changed six schools from class 1 to 12,” Samina shares.

BAF chairperson Samina Bano talking to My School My Voice students and discussing their future aspirations

And her bio-data may give run for their money to several professionals. Armed with management degree from Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore along with a B Tech from Government College of Engineering, Pune, Samina had a settled corporate life. Till 2012, she was working as a management consultant with Deloitte Consulting LLP (S&O) based at Philadelphia in USA. In her own words — “it was a spontaneous decision, I hung my boots and formed BAF.”

“The mission is more important — poor children also have a right to study respectfully,” she says. With her, she had five years of experience of working in other organisations like Texas Instruments and Proctor and Gamble at India and Singapore. From earning a hefty package, she is dependent on donations from her colleagues for her mission now.

In two years, there has been no looking back. She may feel paucity of funds but the courage never lets her down. It is due to her sincere efforts that now her name is synonymous with RTE in UP. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav realised her efforts and gave her all freedom to do her work deviating from set pattern of government functioning.

Samina, after her umpteen meetings with him, turned her focus towards primary education in Uttar Pradesh. It was tough, though RTE was applicable but not effectively implemented. Private schools did not pay heed to the rules while education department had no zeal to act. Touring across the state, she held several meetings with district level education officials and district administration. Even private schools were invited, some came, others overlooked.

But where are the children?

With the stage set, there was a problem in getting children to the schools. It is generally hard to locate poor children whose parents will allow them to attend school. With her own resources, she started collecting data and even filling admission forms. “The numbers were less in the beginning but slowly it picked. Now, even some prestigious schools have agreed and offer admission to poor students,” she informs.

Even today, at her two room rented office in Gomti Nagar, application forms are available for free, even a missed call is sufficient for enrolling a student as Samina’s few staff members rush to locate the child after collecting information. Seeing her efforts, CM Yadav has extended the date for admissions under the RTE on her request to accommodate more children. “There was a situation when officials used to avoid me saying that she will again talk about RTE. But I persisted,” she says.

Not only RTE but another of her campaign also earned accolades in the society. My School My Voice, a campaign conceived by her was endorsed, again, by CM Yadav in presence of hundreds of school children who had for the first time visited the CM residence.

The campaign in simple words — engaging school children for their schools. Getting children to say something about their school, the problems, the facilities and even teachers. Yadav attentively listened and the result — two teachers were served warning for skipping schools and schools were provided RO drinking water after students raised these issues.

“The journey is still a long way as 25 % of seats are to be reserved for poor students. I am focusing on that, getting few thousands admitted is good, but still the number can be higher,” Samina says.

More details about Samina Bano’s work through her Bharat Abhyudaya Foundation can be read here Bharat Abhyudaya Foundation .You can also visit the Facebook page of BAF here Bharat Abhyudaya Foundation.

Source: Two Circles.net

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