When leaving grade 8, 14-year-old Manisha from the village school in Dhamaka was told by her school teacher when she received her certificate of graduation, “there is a free bus ride available in case you want to study further”.
Manisha was nervous. Her father, Sunder, works in a factory about 150 kilometers away from their house and visits his family occasionally. She wanted to study further, but was not sure if his father would allow it. Her mother called her father and mentioned this idea.
He was apprehensive about the Manisha’s safety while travelling eight kilometers on a bus — alone. The school Head Master of the village Dhamaka assured her father, telling him that many girls from village Dhamaka have completed their schooling riding on Blossom Bus safely.
Sunder agreed after talking to the Head Master and Manisha was enrolled in grade nine at Girls High School Aharwan. “I could not believe it and it took some time for me to realize that this is true,” Manisha shared as she was sure her father would refuse to send her that far. Her elder sister, who was married at the age of 18, was not allowed to study further after passing grade eight from village school.
Manisha is now happy and travelling on Blossom Bus with friends from her village, Taniya and Monika.
Blossom Bus is now in its 10th year of service and is currently enrolling a fresh group of girls who are joining the bus thanks in large part to the help of teachers at Girls High School Aharwan. It’s great to see these teacher play an active role in recruiting girls from different villages and enrolling them in school. The role of these teachers is crucial to convince parents the bus is safe for their daughters to ride.
Most of the girls who ride Blossom Bus come from very poor families and are vulnerable to drop out after grade eight as their parents are not able to pay for their continuing education. To add ot this is the social pressure of wealthy people in the village who do not like it when they see the girls from poor families continue to go to school at a distant village, riding on a bus which is according to them, threatening for them as these girls will be educated on par with the girls from wealthy families, enjoying the equal status of education.
The parents from poor families are, of course, happy to see their daughters at par with the girls from wealthy families, but keep a low profile and do not boast about it to avoid the backlash and rivalry.
Even still, five new girls are enrolled from village Dhamaka this year in grade nine and they are all so happy to be able to continue their studies! The admission process for the coming academic year is currently underway and we will prepare a fresh list of girls to ride Blossom Bus soon after its completion at the end of this month.