Where Mothers Meet Schools

Folklores say a lot about people of a community. Understanding the lore is a very important part of connecting with a particular culture and in turn with the people of that culture. Bulauwa is a traditional gathering of adivasi women of Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh on festivals, celebrations and agricultural off days. Vidisha lies on the Vidyanchal Plateau off the main Vidyanchal Range.  Three blocks of the district are predominantly adivasi regions; namely LateriNatayanand Chirunj. A few bangle making nomadic communities also visit the district from time to time. Most of the students of government schools here are first generation learners.

It becomes difficult in such communities, to organise parents’ teacher meetings in order to share a child’s growth in school. Men are generally busy in community nuances and women tend to spend all their time in managing the household and doing agricultural work.

Attendance rate tend to be low and majority of girls drop out of schools. When the economic and social backwardness of the community was becoming a challenge for the education system in Vidisha, culture of the community became a tool to overcome the hurdles.

Teachers of Lateri block of the district tapped on the traditional importance of Bulauwa to invite women to schools for their gathering once a month. The initiative has worked tremendously well to increase enrollment in the schools here,” tells Harjinder Singh, Program Manager, Kaivalya Education Foundation. Bulauwa is a practice of women gathering after lunch on festive days to sing and celebrate the tribal traditions of the community. Since July 2018, women have been doing Bulauwa in school premises.  Harjinder Singh, along with Block resource coordinator Laxman Singh Yadav started this initiative in the schools of Lateri block in July 2018. Since them Bulauwahas spread to all blocks of Vidisha impacting enrollment and attendance rate of girl children of the district. 1621 drop out (female) students have been enrolled in 363 schools since then.

The gathering is scheduledduring other school activities like BalSabhaand Parents’ Teachers meetings. Women started sharing their fears for their daughters; the fear of harassment, molestation, and misbehavior; those which serve as a cause behind the drop out of girl child from schools along with increasing household work and early marriage of girls. “Women of Vidisha started talking to the system because of Bulauwa,” exclaims Mr. Singh proudly. Gender Coordinators of various villages started connecting with the women, hearing out their survival stories and the issues of substance abuse amongst men. Teachers focused more on the importance of education of girls in these gatherings. Along with enrollment of students in primary classes, girls who have dropped out after elementary school were admitted in senior secondary schools and their mothers sent them to girls’ hostels. Education Officers of Vidisha consider it a big step towards education empowerment in the district. Mothers go to these hostels as well for Bulauwanow.

Harjinder Singh has become a part of the family for these women. Talking about them, he says,” Women have become more confident and they have started asking teachers about their children’s performance and growth. They have started removing their veil as well in school. They share their challenges and aspirations with me which makes me feel responsible.” 

School needs community as much as community needs school. Bulauwacampaign is a live example of how better community school relationship can lead to positive change. It is important for holistic development of a child. Women want better future for their daughters, a better life than what they are leading now. These women, gender coordinators, teachers, and block resource coordinators are playing an important role in the success of the campaign. In past 19 months, 47,000+ women have participated in Bulauwagatherings. Students are performing better and they get awards from their mothers for good attendance and excellent academic performance. Both the mothers and children feel the sense of pride and dignity in the process. Bulauwais treated as an established process in schools of Vidisha now and it will continue to create a positive impact on community school relationship, enrollment, and attendance rate of students in near future.