KARACHI: Meet Aansoo Kolhi of Sindh – the girl who defied all odds to achieve what few others would have deemed possible. She set up her own school which now caters to over 200 students and is the only female in her village who is this close to receiving her bachelor’s degree this year. Aansoo’s feat has made her a legend of sorts in the education sector in the country.
Ansoo, which literally means ‘teardrop’, is physically impaired and belongs to one of the most marginalised Hindu communities in the country – the Kolhi tribe. The brave girl lost one of her legs at just two years of age and has since been dependent on crutches.
She endured the long journeys to and from her primary and secondary schools, where she would slowly but resolutely make her way supported by a stick and crutches. Her village, Mina Ji Dhani, is located around 17 kilometres from Kunri and 28 kilometres from Umerkot.
Currently, Ansoo is enrolled in the BA course at the Kunri Degree College. Her final examination papers are due to commence on November 11. “It will be a great honour for me when I complete my graduation this year,” she exclaimed ecstatically. “No words can justify the happiness I feel.”
The village she lives in roughly comprises 400 households. Aansoo is the only resident who is regarded by the village as an educated person. “It’s all because of my father,” she explains. “He wanted me to be a teacher.”
Aansoo’s father, Kombho Mal, passed away when she was in the final year of Matriculation. “It was the saddest day of my life when my father was lying on the charpoy and all he said to me was to fulfill his dream,” she recalls. “That day, I felt I lost my father as well as my access to education. But baba (father) had instructed me to become a teacher and educate others, which I intend to do.”
Her mother, Rani, works in the fields to support the daughter’s endeavours and is now the pride of her entire community. “It was not an easy journey by any means,” she reminisces. “People mocked me for wanting to get an education. They laughed at my compulsion.”
Being a steadfast supporter of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), she visited the offices of several local leaders for help in getting a job as a teacher, but all her attempts were in vain.
Tired of being denied, Aansoo set up a school at her own house around seven months ago. Starting with only eight students, the number has risen exponentially since and she now teaches 229 students, including 104 girls.
“There are seven girls’ schools in the vicinity that have been lying closed for years,” a social worker, Janib Ali Dalwani, told The Express Tribune. The school in Karo Pali, Abdullah Bhatti, Kamil Kalar and even the main school in Union Council Mir Wali Mohammad has been closed for years, he added. “The ‘educated’ people should learn a lesson or two from this young girl,” chided Dalwani. “Not a single boy in her village has completed graduation to date.”
Dalwani added that girls in the Kolhi community were not encouraged to get an education. Even after her reasonable success, the community’s elders justified their reservations by saying that Aansoo had still not been given a job. “They say there is nothing to be gained from getting an education,” said Dalwani.
Aansoo’s school starts at 8am but there is no fixed time for it to close. “It usually runs till late into the evening,” she explains, saying that the number of students was increasing steadily. “I want to build a school in the village after my father’s name,” she hopes.
The girl is not sure how all this will happen. She is, however, confident that if she could overcome her handicap to get an education, nothing was impossible for her. “My father is my main source of inspiration and I will fulfill his dream.”
Today, her school has no furniture but she refuses to charge a penny from the first grade students. But she is happy. The villagers support her with some stationery and books and the rest falls into place through her resilience.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2014.