When Rinky Yadav first heard about FEA’s free classes from a friend, she assumed they would be of poor quality: “They are free? They must be fooling us.” Now an FEA Deputy Branch Manager and Facilitator, Rinky knew that there was no dearth of scam educational institutes in Delhi. Somehow, the friend convinced her to check out a class or two at the FEA branch next to her home.
Rinky comes from a large family of 7. Of her four siblings, one was born with congenital impairment. Her father is an auto-rickshaw driver. Their family had only recently moved from Shikohabad in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, still a new, sometimes frighteningly complex city to navigate.
As an FEA student, Rinky soon came to appreciate the environment at FEA. In the first few classes, Rinky was surprised that her facilitator was a teacher and yet so polite and friendly — Rinky had never seen that before in school. As she worked to acquire English proficiency, her facilitator reminded her that she needed to stop translating word by word: “He told me to start thinking in English.” Rinky figured that she needed intensive practice on her own to achieve that level of fluency. “She showed immense dedication to learning,” in the words of her then facilitator, Himanshu Basyal. The encouragement from her facilitator made Rinky realize that she wanted to become a teacher, too. “Here, there were no impediments to my learning.”
Rinky now works to encourage the same kind of freedom among her students, many of whom come from similar families as hers. As a facilitator, she teaches 80 students in 4 different batches every day. She devises creative ways of engaging her students despite all challenges — there was a time when she used to be afraid of technology. Now she learns primarily online: her staff training at FEA involves online personal development courses and MOOCs.
When India locked down in response to COVID-19 in April 2020, migrants like Rinky’s father were the demographic hardest hit by the economic fallout of the virus. His daily income as an auto-rickshaw driver evaporated abruptly. Though Rinky’s family had imagined that their eldest son would provide for them, it was Rinky’s FEA salary that helped run the entire household during the lockdown. “Earlier, they would doubt that I could earn and run the house. Now I get respect from my family, only because of FEA.”
In Rinky’s extended family in Uttar Pradesh, it is extremely rare for a married woman to work outside home. Rinky is past the age at which girls tend to get married in that society. Everyday, there is talk about her marriage at home. Though Rinky now has teaching and managing experience that she didn’t have before, she clarifies: “I owe something to my family too.”
Despite all the uncertainties, Rinky knows that her calling is to teach for life. What form will that take? She does not yet know.