(A story can make a world of difference. With your support, The Quint was able to make an impact in the life of Falak Shah – by helping her return to school. Our video series लड़की हूं... पढ़ना चाहती हूं is bringing you stories of girls from across the country who were forced to discontinue education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Support us in completing this series, so that more girls like Falak get a second chance at education.)
Eight-year-old Falak Shah from Mumbai's Govandi area was forced to drop out of school after her father Mohammad Shah lost his job as a graphic designer in 2020 – during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Shah unable to find employment, his family of five struggled to make ends meet and have two meals everyday. Falak lost two precious years in school. But not anymore. Come June 2022, the child will start her Class 4 – just like her peers.
In The Quint's story published on 12 April, as a part of our लड़की हूं... पढ़ना चाहती हूं series, we had highlighted Falak's story.
"I was in Class 2 and so were my friends. But after I stopped going to school, my friends went to Class 3 but I am still in Class 2."
Volunteer-run initiative IndiaCares reached out to The Quint after watching our video. Through a donor, they facilitated the payment of Falak's fees for Class 4. The initiative has also promised to help Falak with her education in "any way they can."
"I do not have words to describe how I am feeling. I blamed myself for not being capable enough to send my daughter to school. This year, I was ready to borrow money for her education. She is very good at studies, and I want her to dream big."Mohammad Shah, Falak's Father, to The Quint
A Brother's Birthday Gift to His Sister
Started by IPS Officer Arun Bothra during the pandemic between June and July 2021, the volunteer-led initiative connects "people who need help with people who can help."
They enable support through what they call a 'Promise Bank' – where people make pledges on the causes they want to help. However, the monetary transaction is directly made to either schools, colleges, or hospitals, and not the personal accounts.
"When we saw Falak's story, we knew we had many donors who would come forward to help. A donor from the Promise Bank wanted to support a girl child's education to mark his sister's birthday. We reached out to the father who had told us that he borrowed to pay Falak's fees for the upcoming academic year. He was overwhelmed about paying it back. We connected the school and the donor," explained Sabita, an HR professional and volunteer with IndiaCares.
Once her fees was paid, the school refunded the money Mohammad had paid as fees – helping him return the money he had borrowed at a high interest rate.
'Want Nothing More Than My Daughter To Study': Falak's Mother
Almost every day Falak asked her mother when she would return to school – as she saw little girls in uniform from her window. But for the first time, Falak's mother Farah Shah had an answer.
"We did not actually tell her to leave school altogether. But we told her that her father is facing some crisis and she can join school later. She was very understanding. But we decided to borrow money and send her to school. This help is like a blessing from above. Since my husband is facing a crisis, my children had to adjust. I want nothing more than for her to go to school."Farah Shah, Falak's Mother, to The Quint
Falak did not go to school, but studied every day with the help of her elder brother.
"I want to become a doctor and help everyone," she said, with a smile on her face and hope in her eyes.