Published: 19th February 2020
Four months after giving birth, this Bihari woman topped the Malayalam literacy test in Kerala
The now 26-year-old Romiya Kathur moved to Kollam in Kerala with her husband six years ago. Her daughter was born in December and she took the test and aced it. This is her story
Romiya Kathur tells us how she's fluent in four Indian languages — Hindi, Bangla, Maithili and Malayalam. However, for years she was deprived of the joy of reading even a sentence in any of them. But that's an old story. A week ago, this 26-year-old Bihari woman topped the Kerala Literacy Mission's Malayalam examination conducted for migrant labourers. Surprisingly, she scored full marks in the examination.
Now, of these four languages, she learned Malayalam only recently, after moving to Kerala six ago, with her husband Saifullah, a confectioner. "I can now write sentences in Malayalam and know the numbers until 100. Also, I don't have to depend on someone else to read," says Romiya. When we spoke to her over the phone, she had just gotten back from a hospital, where she'd taken her youngest daughter Tamanna to get vaccinated.
The baby is four-and-a-half months old. Apart from her, Romiya and Saifullah have two other sons, aged five and six. So naturally, we wondered how this young mother managed to study, despite having to take care of her little ones. "It was obviously difficult for me to attend classes regularly. I had just gotten back to Kollam after giving birth to my daughter. But, my instructor would come home regularly to teach me," she says. "Also, I was quite keen to learn to read and write, now that my older children have started going to school. I can now read and understand their school notes," she says.
Romiya tells us that Saifullah too doesn't know how to read and write quite well and can merely write his name. "I come from a village in Bihar's Katihar district. Not many are educated there, including my parents. So, they never realised the importance of sending me to school," she says. The most educated person in her family is her brother, who has studied up to class X. "My sister too went to school until class VII. Another brother can write his own name," she says. "But all these happened quite recently. I got married 10 years ago when I was 16," she says.
Romiya now wants to clear the class IV examination. However, it is a long shot. "I will have to wait for my daughter to grow up. My husband has set up his own shop now and there is no one else to help me raise the children," she says.
Here's hoping she finds the time and some good luck!