There’s a great African Proverb which says “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)” and we believe that to be true.
There are many young women fighting for the right to an education in the Eastern world, just like Malala Yousafzai who has proven being shot in the head by the Taliban (good job guys, you’re a bunch of extremists plotting against girls less than half your age and using guns against their school books…) is nowhere near enough to stop the message getting out.
But in a country where education amongst the young female population is unfortunately still discouraged, there is a family daring to go against tradition and promote the benefits of school.
Sushma Verma is a 13 year old girl from Lucknow, India, who has just finished her degree. No that’s not a type-o, that’s a fact! At the age of 7 she finished school, and has just completed an undergraduate degree. She has dreams of one day being a doctor, but cannot enroll in med school until the age of 18. So she is opting to do a masters degree in microbiology in the meantime.
It seems brains run in the family, as her older brother graduated from school at the age of 9, and became India’s youngest computer science graduates at the age of 14, back in 2007!
The catalyst in this story is Sushma’s father, 50 year-old Tej Bahadur Verma. He sold all the pieces of land he owns to fund his daughter’s education. That’s what you call self-sacrificing love. It is highly unusual for a man in a culture like India, ruled by men, to give up his livelihood so that his daughter could go to school.
But despite opposition from family and friends, he pursued this worthwhile investment so that his only daughter will have a chance to be catapulted into India’s growing middle class and secure a future for herself. We should stress that India is a country where Hinduism and government kinda go hand in hand. Meaning, if you are from a poor caste, which Sushma and her family are, there is no government or welfare programs to help you live your dreams, as that is messing with the karma of the gods. Sad, but true.
Sushma starts attending Lucknow’s B. R. Ambedkar Central University this week, and aside from the money her father received from selling his land, her fees are also being paid by a charity that improves rural sewage system who gave her a grant of just over $12 000 (800 000 Rupees).
Sushma told the Associated Press that her achievements wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the sacrifices of her parents.
“They allowed me to do what I wanted to do,” Verma said. “I hope that other parents don’t impose their choices on their children.”
While her family’s modest living may not seem like the right environment to cultivate an intelligent child like Sushma, she said not having a television was a good thing because it meant all she could do was study.
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak of Sulabh International, who decided to also contribute financially to her college fees after seeing a local television program on Sushma, said “The girl is an inspiration for students from elite backgrounds who are born with everything.”
What an inspirational family who are going against the grain of society for the sake of wanting their kids to have a better future. And let this story of 13 year old Sushma Verma remind us to be thankful for each opportunity we have, and not to waste a moment of our freedoms we experience every day.
The thought of young female warriors like Malala and Sushma becoming the future leaders of their countries is an exciting one. Thank God for the progressive men and women who are investing in the lives of the daughters of tomorrow.