‘I will become what I want to become’

NB: November 14, 2022, will be Jawaharlal Nehru’s 133rd birthday. It is celebrated as Children’s Day. DS

Jamuna Solanke

In the Nathjogi nomadic community, no girl had ever passed Class 10. With fierce determination, Jamuna Solanke, from a hamlet in Maharashtra’s Buldana district, has broken that barrier. This is her story

On the day my SSC [secondary school certificate] results were to come, my condition was like that of a cricket ball after it is hit. You know how everyone watches just that ball? Will it be a four [runs] or a six? Everyone would be watching. What if I failed? My father would have got me married immediately.

When the results were announced, I was relieved to find that I had scored 79.06 per cent and missed the third highest rank in my school by one point. I was thrilled with my achievement: in our Nathjogi nomadic community, no girl has ever passed Class 10.

I live in Nav Kh [Jalgaon Jamod tehsil , Buldana district], a small village with only people from my community. Most people here travel to Pune, Mumbai and Nagpur to work as beggars. The rest, like my parents, work as daily wage earners around our village.

My parents – Bhaulal Sahebrao Solanke, 45, and Draupada Solanke, 36 – work on others’ fields of wheat, jowar, corn, soybean and cotton. For a day’s work of around eight hours they earn 200 rupees each. They rarely work for long hours and not more than 10-12 days in a month, as there are many people looking for jobs and not enough work.

My father attended school till Class 5 and then dropped out to start working. I have two older sisters – Rukma, 24, never went to school and Nina, 22, studied till Class 5. Both my sisters, who are married now, have been working as daily wage labourers since they left school. My older brother Devlal, 20, is also a wage labourer. He dropped out of school in Class 9. When I turned 10, my father said, “You can start work now; you don’t need to study anymore.” He is not the only one. I pass an elderly lady every day on the way to school. She also scolded me: “Your sisters did not go to school, why do you need to? Do you think you will get a job if you study?’’…