Published: 23rd August 2021
How this law student who defeated patriarchy is helping kids in a tribal village in Bengal find their academic feet
Pritikana has been taking care of these kids and their education for the past year. It all started in September 2020, in the middle of the pandemic that has rendered the world paralysed
She has been shamed for her skin tone, for her looks and for being a girl by her own family. Pritikana Jana, from Medinipur in West Bengal fought all the discrimination that society imposed on her with grit and fought her way through to become a law graduate. Currently pursuing her LLM from Raiganj University, Pritikana also teaches kids from a tribal village near Shantiniketan, where she currently lives. "I don't want anyone to face what I had to fight against," she said.
Having been here for about a year now, she has been taking care of these kids' education almost entirely since September 2020. "Before I decided to work with these kids in Gopalnagar, which is a 30-minute bus ride from Shantiniketan, I had gone around visiting a few villages and realised that the villages closer to the university town had some exposure to education or the other, but these kids who're a little off the main town, had no exposure at all," she added. "I currently have 30 kids under my wing. I regularly teach them and check up on them. Most of their fathers just drink and don't go to work, which forces the mothers to search for employment. A wholesome meal is a dream for them," said Pritikana.
While she is trying to educate these tribal kids, most of whom are not regular to school, she also wants them to dream big, admitted Pritikana. "The first week I got them together, I asked them what they would like to be when they grow up. They had no answer at first. But as time passed by, we had aspiring police officers and dancers and painters in the class," said the law grad. "But the problem is that these kids are not at all regular to school. One of the kids I teach is in Class 7 but did not know the alphabet till last year. Now, she has started reading Bengali books. They have started to take interest in extra-curricular activities as well. I have admitted some of them to free football coaching and I teach them painting myself," she said.
But that's not all. She has also taken these kids to hospitals when they were sick, brought them back to school when they dropped out and even bought them stationary when the basics provided by the school ran out. All of which no one did for her growing up. Now 32, Pritikana has had several hurdles to overcome to get where she is. "Right after I graduated secondary school, they wanted to marry me off. They said I was ugly and dark and no one would marry me when I grew up. But I wanted to study. No one supported me. My mother was never for or against what my uncles, who essentially ran the family, said. But she did save up for some of my fees or stationary needs. My father has always been aloof with family life and even from society for that matter. There was a time when I had to work as a maid at my neighbour's place to even get the basic fees for school. My family might not have been well off but they never extended even the little support that they could. I had to walk 5 km every day to attend school but they did not bat an eyelid," Pritikana added.
Finally, she got to Bajkul Milani Mahavidyalaya for her BA course and gradually left home to complete her LLB from Bengal Law College under Burdwan University from where she graduated in 2019 and started her LLM course last year. But some things do not change. She is still economically marginalised and fighting her battles to get to a position in society that will help her help others, she said.