Kultia’s School for Girls in Bangladesh is a heart-warming, inspiring story of how a brave and visionary few managed to bring education to the women in their rural community, empowering them in a way they had never experienced before.
Kultia is a tiny Bangladeshi village, traditionally home to the ‘Schedules Caste’ – one of the lowest classes of Hindu society. Controlled and subjugated, these people were made to serve the privileged Higher Castes their entire lives. Access to education, health care or any prospect of a proper job were things they could never aspire to.
Following the arrival of the British in India a few children were lucky enough to be sent to schools run by the Higher Castes. Some of them received a primary education – enough to open their eyes that education was the key to a better, shackle-free life.
Enlightened and fired up to start educating more villagers, in Feb 1918 these early pioneers took a bold leap of faith and set up a school, right in the house of the Mallick family – a prominent family in the village at the time. From its humble beginnings with lessons being carried out under the village tree, the school gradually grew in to a successful High School, even sending one of the Mallick boys, Upendra, off to Calcutta University to study law.
This experience proved transformational for Upendra who soon recognised that female education was the only way to enrich a community and uproot them from perpetual poverty. He became heavily involved with the village Girls’ school, dedicating himself to helping it grow.
This was the first of many schools Upendra created over the country. Together with some visionary village elders, he opened a Primary School for girls in May 1921. Despite a difficult birth – convincing farmers that educating their daughters wasn’t a waste of time and finding teachers who would teach for free – the school went from strength to strength, becoming one of the best secondary schools around.
This school is today a huge success story in Bangladesh with over 200 students and 15 teachers. Its students are going on to lead very happy and successful lives as doctors, lawyers, teachers, musicians, artists and more.
Many of these alumni go on to help fund the building of more new schools themselves and so the system self-fulfills, empowering past students to transform their own communities.
New schools continue to be built and they are now half way through constructing a hostel for female students – a place for them to stay and get intensive coaching before their Finals.
Kultia Girls’ High School really is a great example of when a forward thinking and brave individual risks persecution and goes against the grain of society in order to give others an opportunity and a better start in life.
A big thank you to Sukriti and Paul Mallick for sharing their family story with us. Long may these schools live on we say!