In a big break from local convention, she then left her village to study for a teaching degree in a nearby city. `The girls I teach tell me they’re motivated by me, she says. `They think if I can leave the village, study at university and become a teacher, then they can too.
She grew up living with her parents, five sisters, and four brothers. Her parents both tailors played a big part in her becoming a teacher. `They managed somehow to find the money so I could finish high school, she says. `Then I asked again if they could help me study to become a teacher and, thankfully, they did. So I went to Luknor to complete my MA.”
Traditionally, educating girls has been considered less important here than educating boys. As Afsana explains, before she got her degree, none of the local girls used to leave the village and continue their studies. Now, many do, and more and more parents are starting to see the value of education.
She loves working with children, especially `interacting with them and helping them learn, but conditions here aren’t easy. Afsana is one of two teachers at the school, and each of them has to teach around 175 children. As she says: `The children have different levels of learning, so how can the quality be as good as it needs to be? There can be no one-to-one teaching. You just don’t have the time.
The Indian government’s commitment to education has improved a lot recently, she says. Teachers’ salaries and training are better than they were, and more is being spent on books and teaching materials. As a result, parents especially those with girls are now more inclined to send their children to school.
But the problem of class sizes remains. `The biggest problem I face, Afsana says, `it that it is hard to manage such a big number of children. She has always wanted to `work individually with the children who are not interested. As things stand, she has little chance to do this, yet the respect her pupils have for her both boys and girls is clear. Imagine what she could achieve if she could spend a little more time with her students.