An educationalist, a philanthropist, a prolific Marathi writer and most important, an Indian social reformer. Born on January 3rd 1831 in a small village called Naigaon in the Satara district of Maharashtra, Savitribai Phule was all of those, and much more to this country.
Being an illiterate until marriage, who would’ve thought this lady would grow up to become the first female teacher of India? None of this would’ve been possible without the help of another great individual, Jyotirao Phule, her husband, who educated her amidst working on fields and extensive labour. After receiving her primary education, Savitribai continued to get herself enrolled in two teacher’s training programs, one being under an American missionary Cynthia Farrar, and the other one under a normal school in Pune.
Completing her teacher’s education, Savitribai began teaching girls at a school in Pune alongside her sister. Not long after, they decided to open their own school in Bhide Wada. Like the curriculum, the teaching methods employed by the three schools differed from those used in government schools and as a result of this reputation, the number of girls receiving their education at Phule’s schools outnumbered the number of boys enrolled in government schools.
But soon the glory days came to an end as the locals abused Savitribai’s work, considered it taboo, and assailed resistance by throwing dung, stones and a plethora of verbal abuse. A novelist mentions that this forced Savitribai to carry an extra saree wherever she went to teach. Reluctant to any of these, Savitribai continued teaching masses, and opened two educational trusts, entitles as ‘Native Female School and the Society for Promoting the Education of Mahars, Mangs and other backward classes who were opposed to receiving education.
Today, we celebrate her birthday as Balika Din, in the whole of Maharashtra, especially in girls’ school. And as for this individual, all heads must bow with respect and pride, for educating masses, and leading revolutions that shaped the women of India to where they are today.