The life of Savitribai Phule was full of struggles. The first female teacher of India was herself illiterate when she married Jyotiba Phule at the age of 9. However, the tutelage of her great husband Jyotiba Phule ensured that she became literate enough to start the first school for girls in 1848. She started with six girls, but gradually, the number increased to 150 in 1851. In 1852, she and her husband were felicitated, and the British government sanctioned grants for their school.
Even after 126 years of her death, one can say that her legacy has been preserved. Here are some of her teachings and beliefs that keep her alive even today-
Jyotiba Rao Phule was an ardent supporter of English education. He believed that English education could liberate the downtrodden masses, particularly women. Savitribai Phule too was an admirer of English education, and the following translated excerpts from Kavya Phule shine a light on her firm belief in the language: “Learn to write/ Good times are here, our English mother is here”
The aforementioned lines, indited in the 19th century under the rule of the British, who were promoting English as a medium for official work. Savitri realized the strategic heft of English in British India, as her husband also saw English education as an escape from caste discrimination. However, these lines are relevant even today and must be appreciated in today’s context as an increasing number of students from marginalized communities are going abroad for studies.
Various states and departments across India have given due recognition to Savitri Bai Phule and have named awards and fellowships after her. Some of the awards are:
Krantijyoti Savitri Bai Phule award: The Government of Maharashtra awards women teachers of the state. This year, 108 teachers across Primary and Secondary sections were bestowed with the award by the Chief Minister Ek Nath Shinde.
Savitribai Phule Excellence Award- Teachers in the municipal schools of Andhra Pradesh are felicitated with Savitribai Phule Excellence Award every year. This year, 58 women teachers across the state were felicitated at a function in Vijaywada.
SAVITRIBAI JYOTIRAO PHULE FELLOWSHIP FOR SINGLE GIRL CHILD: The fellowship, sponsored by the UGC (University Grants Commission), awards a fellowship to a single girl child in a family, i.e., a girl not having any siblings. The UGC has extended the scheme to students undergoing research in Science and Technology also. The duration of the scheme is five years. The financial assistance available under the scheme:
Junior Research Fellowship of Rs. 31,000/- p.m. for the initial two years. Senior Research Fellowship of Rs. 35,000- p.m. for the remaining tenure (3 years).
The scheme, funded by the Jharkhand Government, provides assistance of Rs. 40,000 to adolescent girls for good education. Under this, Rs. 2500 will be given to girl students in class 8, Rs. 2500 in class 9, Rs. 5000 in class 10, Rs. 5000-5000 in class 11th and 12th, and Rs. 20,000 to adolescent girls on completion of 18 to 19 years.
It is evident that Savitribai Phule's legacy has been revived from the obscurity that biased historians had pushed her into. Selfless social activists and intellectuals deserve commendation for their efforts.
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