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Savitribai Phule—The First Lady Teacher of India

Savitribai Phule—The First Lady Teacher of India            

      A century before the Independence of India,when women’s rights were at a far cry under the orthodoxian clutch,then at that time, India’s first feminist,the first lady teacher,the first female poetess,one of the social reformers of India ,Savitribai Phule was born to Khandoji Navse Patil and Laxmibai on 3rd January,1831 in a village named Naigaon in the Satara district,Maharastra.An untold story of Savitribai Phule ,who along with her emancipated husband ,Jyotirao Phule set up the first school for girls in India at her teens.Our great tribute to Savitribai Phule ,who lit the lamp of female education in India and established the fact that everyone has the right to get education.
             Bold and determined ,Savitribai Phule stood against the odds of gender  bias and communal intolerance  prevailed in our society centuries before the Independence. In keeping with the tradition of Balya Bibah,Savitribai was married at the tender age of 9 to the 13th year old Jyotirao Phule.Obviously ,the fact that she could not get any formal education before her marriage;but fortunate enough to get a husband like Jyotirao Phule ,who unearthed the potentialities and grit in her.He educated her at home to radiate knowledge that education is the sole weapon to distract the social inequalities prevailed in our society. Little did we know that he is the original spokesman of India’s gender revolution and he demanded dignity for all women. Jyotirao felt the need of female education that every mother should be educated and enlightened to develop a society.
           Jyotirao Phule belonged to the Mali community and were considered ‘low caste’ in the Hindu caste hierarchy.This community was not expected to receive formal education.But Jyotirao got the opportunity to enroll himself in a Scottish Mission School through his aunt Sagunabai,a child widow,who looked after him after his mother’s death in his infancy.To earn her living ,Sagunabai worked as a domestic help and baby-sitter to a dedicated missionary ,Mr.John ,who ran an orphanage.Under the influence of the Missionaries,Sagunabai learnt the values like equality,liberty and fraternity and also became capable of reading and writing.Jyotirao accompanied his aunt to work everyday.It was on her insistence that he got the opportunity of English education.
          Sagunabai’s enthusiasm and emancipation had a great impact on Jyotirao and took her as a role model.Jyotirao encouraged his wife to get educated.He felt the need of a trained female educator and decided to start with his wife.At that time ,women education was considered as evil and Savitribai had to hide it from society.Every afternoon,when Savitribai went to the field to provide food for her husband where he worked,Jyotirao sat with her and made her capable of reading and writing.Their plan to start a school for the girls was considered as a sin in the Brahmanical texts and Jyotirao’s father asked the couple to leave his home.
       After completing her primary education with Jyotirao ,Savitribai enrolled in two teachers’ training programs.The first was in Ahmednagar ,under an institution run by an American Missionary,Cynthia Farrar and the other was at a Normal School in Pune.Savitribai completed the training programs with grand success along with another woman Fatima Sheikh.Savitribai and Jyotirao ,along with Sagunabai started their own school for girls at Bhide Wada in Pune in 1848.Savitribai became the headmistress,thus got the recognition of being  India’s first female teacher.Fatima sheikh and Sagunabai assisted her in her mission.Only nine girls enrolled all from different castes.Later on,the number rose to 25.Between 1848 and 1852,the couple established no less than 18 schools.The couple also opened a care centre called Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha(Child killing Prohibition home) for pregnant rape victims and helped deliver and save their children.
     Savitribai faced innumerable abuses on her way to school to teach the girls.She always took two sarees with her; because groups of orthodox men followed her on her way to work and threw rotten eggs,cow dung ,tomatoes and stones.They abused and cursed her in obscene language.While she had reached her school,she changed her dress with the extra saree carrying in her bag.Thus,Savitribai showed plenty of grit in her mission and was determined to change the social system.The extraordinary couple devoted themselves to establish equality between men and women and a fight against the caste system.To sum up with a poem written by Savitribai—
                                   Go,Get Education
               Be self-reliant,be industrious 
               Work,gather wisdom and riches,
               All gets lost without knowledges
               We become animal without wisdom,
               Sit idle no more,go,get education
               End misery of the oppressed and forsaken,
            You’ve got a golden chance to learn
           So learn and break the chains of caste.
           Throw away the Brahman’scriptures fast.


Rupanjali Das
Kaliprasad Das High School
Block: Rampur

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