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In a conversation with Uplabdhi Misha Chandola Scott- Founder of TeachGirls Educational Society

Today we have a person with us who is a ray of hope for hundreds of girls who are not able to get their right to education due lack of resources and support from families. Uplabdhi Misha Chandola Scott laid the foundation of Teach Girls educational society with her mother and husband three years ago. Let us know about her journey till date:

You engaged in social service from quite young age; tell us about your experience till date? Who do you think has kindled the sense of humanity inside you?
It was a great experience so far. A lot of learning and reality check at the same time. Working on the ground is not the easiest task but you get to learn something you can never learn sitting in a cabin or a cubicle for hours in a usual 9 to 5 setup. It is challenging at times, but it passes and you move on. My mother is the one who inculcated the sense of humanism and empathy in me. She is the founder member of TeachGirls Educational Society and one of the strongest pillars of the organization.

Tell me something about your childhood and education, about your family background.
I’m a mountain girl. I’ve spent my childhood in New Tehri and completed my primary and secondary education from there itself. My mother was posted in Tehri back then. She was an English lecturer. My father was involved in social field as well. We are 4 sisters and fortunately we all 4 got full support from our parents for the careers we chose for ourselves. They brought us up as “Strong Girls” and were extremely proud of us in every sphere of our lives.

When did you start TeachGirls? What was the motive behind starting it?
I started TeachGirls in 2014 with just one thing in mind to give the uniform opportunity to every girl I encounter. There are so many girls in this country who have the zeal but lack of resources and support from families. I got lucky and I bless my luck that I wasn’t underprivileged and I want to take full advantage of not being one by fixing the gap and working on the issues few extremely needy girls face even in 21st century. I strongly believe Education improve lifestyle and thinking. Safety is the biggest concern even today. I being a super independent girl ain’t safe, no matter how strong I am or I act. I want a safe space for girls, a carefree, conducive environment where girls get the opportunity to blossom in the best possible way. There are a number of reasons why I thought of this project but empowering girls by educating them is prime.

Tell us something about its route and Who/what has motivated you?
I was shocked when I visited one of the schools in Udham Singh Nagar District whilst I was working there. It was the oddest scenario which moved me. Girls were getting married at the tender age of 13 and 14 and I was aghast, I questioned myself is this the reality or exception? Whatever it is, it is not right because the girls were sad about it. They had no say. Families were reluctant to change. My words had no value because I was an outsider and not a part of the community. Girls like me spoil village girls, that’s what villagers think. My words were not heard and my plea went in vain. So, I failed and that failure gave birth to TeachGirls. I came back to Dehradun and finally decided to get accepted by a disadvantaged community, become one of them and activate them by working within the same community. Project Mangal Basti is where we run TeachGirls now.

Do you think whatever government doing for education isn’t enough?
The government needs to understand, being underprivileged doesn’t mean they are unimportant. So many schemes, so much less to offer. What policies are framed on high level fails miserably till the time it reaches the ground. Policy makers are educated and sound individuals, but the execution has loopholes. It’s a big gap in terms of decentralization of responsibilities. Every Government school offers Education to underprivileged till 8th grade, and they expect that an underprivileged kid becomes rich overnight and will avail paid education from 9th grade onwards? RTE has framed so many rules, which sounds effective but biggest concern is execution and seriousness in the school system. Organizations like us can only offer support to strengthen the mainstream school system, can’t replace it.

What kind of your problems did you face when you and your husband started TeachGirls?
Mobilizing a small rigid community is a challenge in itself. Space for the community school was a challenge and also retention was another challenge we faced initially. We work in a slum where most people have migrated in search of work, therefore once their work is done they move in search of new work (labor). Girls who came to study with us used to leave frequently just because their parents are moving and we couldn’t stop them. Now it’s more organized. We worked with them intensively and made them realize the importance of Education.

Many girls who are getting the education in TeachGirls are from Muslim Background. Muslim families are a bit more conservative as compared to other communities so did you face any challenge from radical Islamists?
In Mangal Basti, which is comprised of 85% Muslims, we never faced that problem, In fact, Muslims support us here. Imagine we celebrate Diwali, Holi, Christmas in a house that belongs to a Muslim family. I always say it is a model slum.

Now, something personal…tell us know how did you meet your Husband Mr. Tyler Scott, how you guys fell in love with each other and when did you guys decide to get married?
I met Tyler whilst my last job. We had the same thought process, same perspectives. And he loves India the way I do. We knew from day 1 we are meant to be together, we met for a reason. He is my best friend and I can’t imagine of a better life partner than him. He is a practical individual and I’ve learnt a lot from him. We got married last year.

How is your method of teaching different from Govt. schools?
We believe in a practical way of teaching and learning method. Our pedagogy ain’t restricted to books and their given course. We try and offer activity based learning and involves kids in extra co-curricular activities. We see their mood, and accordingly, we change the pedagogy. We have exposure programs, workshops and competitions too.

Now tell us about your daily routine and how Teach -Girls has become an important part of your life?
My daily routine is not specific. Whenever I think I’m needed in the slum, I go. Sometimes from morning till evening, I’m there and sometimes just during classes. I keep some time for myself, especially my morning is exclusively mine. I’m an early riser. If I’m not fit, I can’t preach health and fitness to my girls. Usually, from 1 to 6 I’m at the slum. Rest, I’m home. Yes, girls at Mangal Basti are extremely important part of my life. I spent most of my time with them and so it’s evident I think more about them and less about my life. It keeps me in my center.

What kind of relationship should a teacher manage with his/her student? And what kind of programs are you running for the development of all kids?
See, there’s a thin line which should be drawn between a teacher and a student. A line that guides to maintain mutual respect. A teacher should act as a mentor. It’s important to make your student feel comfortable and avoid biases amongst students. We run various programs like Education ( Open school/Regular), Foster parenting for girls, Health checks, Lifeskills and Vocational training. We are soon building the first community school in Dehradun, where the community is the owner and stakeholder.



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