A school principal in Assam crusades against child marriage

THUMB PRINT CHANGEMAKER SERIES

TABEEB ULLAH KHAN, Principal, Kabilabad HE School

If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher said A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

APJ Abdul Kalam had inspired many through his deed and action. His book ‘Ignited Minds’ is kept among a stack of books at a steel almirah in the ramshackled office room of the Principal of Kabilabad HE School, a rural school located in Assam’s Sonitpur district. And the founder-principal of the school, Tabeeb Ullah Khan is a crusader against social evils especially child marriages. He has been trying to educate the parents and guardians on the importance of educating a girl child. The school, set up in 1994 has more than 1100 students and 60 percent of them are girls.

kabila

He recalls an incident when he got a wedding invitation for one of his girl student, who was studying in class 9. She was a good student and Khan was angry. The girl’s brother came to invite him. Khan tried to dissuade him. The brother was adamant, “They said they will let her continue her studies. Moreover, they are well-off and have landed property. The groom’s grandfather wants to see his grandchild’s bride before he dies.”

Khan realised it was useless discussing with him. He immediately lodged an FIR at the local police station. The police swung into action. There was a lot of furore. Villagers thronged his house and urged him to take back the complaint as all preparations were made. Some told him that it was a sensitive matter and he should not interfere.

kabila4

It’s very common to get girls married off at an early age. There have been many such cases and he went ahead and stopped these marriages. “It’s a vicious cycle of poverty and insecurity for girls. Parents are anxious that they might not get a suitable groom later,” says Khan.

He calls for parent-teacher meetings and tells them about Central Government schemes like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padao” (Save Girl Child, Educate Girl Child). He tells them that a society and a country can progress only if the girls are educated. “I warn them that if they marry off their daughter at a young age, I will not give them the school leaving certificate,” says Khan.

He is known as a stern school master who calls a spade a spade. Even after school hours, one person can be seen working, devising ways to make his school work with the limited staff and no building grants. He also encourages his girl students to take part in Karate classes, which has been incorporated as part of the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). “Some of our students have even participated in National Championships and won accolades,” his eyes lit up with pride.

kabila3

At the moment, Khan wages a lonely battle for the education of the girl child and usher in a change. “I wish some ngos would come forward to generate awareness about education of the girl child and the social evil of child marriage. I dream of an India where every girl is educated,” says Khan.