Ashirwad Girls School, founded in 2001, is a highly subsidised K-10 school for girls in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India. A pioneering effort of Ashirwad Balika Vidyalaya Shiksha Samiti (ABVSS), the school aims to provide an affordable and accessible quality education to girls from low-income and historically marginalized communities, many of whom would otherwise not have the opportunity to study. Initially, the school’s primary goal was simple and straightforward – enroll girls in school and improve their access to education. However, it soon became clear that simply enrolling in and attending school would not be enough to change the circumstances of these girls’ lives. Thus began the process of developing the rights-based, empowering approach to education that the school uses today.
One of the biggest realizations we had in the beginning was that, in order to have the desired impact, education had to be contextualized to students’ lives. This was true not only of the curriculum, but of the school’s operation as well. For this reason, school timings are set in the afternoon in an effort to accommodate the girls’ schedules. Generally, the girls who attend AGHSS come from neighbouring slums and communities, and find themselves compelled by their circumstances to work as domestic help in neighboring houses in the mornings. In addition, a small meal or snack is provided each day in recognition of the fact that most of the girls attending are under-nourished, and those who work may not have time to go home and eat between work and school. AGHSS also follows the UP Board syllabus until Class X. This allows them greater flexibility in their course options, and is also more accommodating of their lives and circumstances.
In its first year, the school enrolled just 200 girls, and the school fee was set at a token 100 INR per month. Today, more than 1000 girls have been educated in AGHSS .
All girls at AGHSS have scary and inspiring stories. These girls have brutal home lives. Lives that are hard, violent, abusive, powerless and very poor. Many of these girls are not touched at home, except to be beaten. Their fault is being female, lower caste and poor. Not much further you can fall in the universal power ladder. They have no control over their lives, their earnings and their bodies. Yet they engage in their studies, come to school regularly and put in the work they need to do. This is their hope to get a new life… to fulfill a dream that they have dared to have.
There are many more such strong girls cleaning someone else’s home and dishes, supporting an alcoholic father and getting married off at 13. There are many more than we can currently support with our modest funds. These girls have risen above their circumstances and want to grow up to be doctors, teachers, pilots and business women.. Help them reach their dreams.
We use Critical Feminist Pedagogy at Ashirwad Girls School to enable girls to take a feminist stance in their lives. It helps them to discover who they are, to understand the oppression they face every day and develop a deeper understanding of this subordination. Critical Feminist Pedagogy equips them to face the challenges that life is going to throw at them just because they are girls. It attempts to enable the girls to resist discrimination and rise above it. Ashirwad Girls School has built a curriculum around Critical Feminist Pedagogy that uses multimodal tools such as critical dialogues, drama, digital stories and, music. We urge you to be a part of this grass roots initiative to give these girls a better future.
Mr. Satish Shankar Pandey
(Founder & Manager)