Daughters in one of India’s most populous states namely Rajasthan had been imploring for proper education for years before Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an expansion of the “BetiBachao, BetiPadhao” in India. Given into marriage at an early age or swamped by domestic chores, the girl child was oft-neglected by families of this princely state.
Ketaki Chatterji, Educationist, and Social Worker, Principal, Children’s Garden Play School/ Children’s Garden Secondary School, Jaipur, was raised in Allahabad and came to Jaipur after marriage. She was drawn to this cause and set up a school in the pink city of Jaipur three decades ago to encourage education and equal opportunities for girls and boys. “I come from a family where my father was a Professor of Chemistry. I cherish the childhood memory of sleeping with the entire family of ten members in the courtyard of our house under mosquito nets and studying in the courtyard with a lamp on. I also used to play basketball and was one of the few who were a part of the team playing at the district level,” reminisces Ketaki. She quickly adds, “I come from a family background where education was very important, and my parents encouraged us to study. Initially, I studied for an MA in Philosophy from the University of Allahabad, and then for the sake of the School, I pursued an MEd from the University of Rajasthan. In our time bank and civil services, jobs were considered prestigious jobs. I had my fair share of appearing in those exams too, but I ended up taking teaching as a profession and am very proud and happy about this. During our time just to be employed and to be able to fend for oneself was very important.”
Taking the path less taken back then, Ketaki decided to teach instead. She thought of herself as a teacher and not so much of an entrepreneur. As Principal of Children Garden Play School, she tells us,” Teaching allows us to be in touch with the children from various age groups right from 3yrs to 13yrs and it has been a tremendous learning opportunity. One learns as it comes.”
Children Garden play school is run one hundred percent by a dynamic team of women. It is a place where children study, grow wings and go but then return with their own children many years hence. That is the kind of faith CGPS elicits. Ketaki smiles, “Hard work and tenacity always pay off. All difficulties can be vaulted over. Every industry has its own highs and lows. I am blessed to have good reliable, cooperative staff which help in the smooth functioning of the school and are my support system.”
- Advertisement -
Despite court cases, litigations and Covid, CGPS is the one school that insists upon academic discipline and regularity. Parents send their kids to school with implicit faith that the children will continue to learn. Many a time parents would say that they couldn’t afford the fee as they had lost jobs during Covid, but the School waited patiently for them to regain financial stability. Ketaki believes that children must not suffer for what has come to be during the pandemic.
How difficult has it been for Ketaki to run this school in Rajasthan, a state known to not prefer sending their daughters to school? “It is difficult, I run an institution where we are a 100 percent women’s team managing home and children. It is a challenge to do justice to one’s profession and tend to family. I started this school 40 years ago and since then I have always wanted to ensure that we will be an all-women team,” says Ketaki.
One person Ketaki looks up to and admires is Dr. APJ Kalam whose life and teachings have been an inspiration to her. Her family has been her biggest support system as they stood by her in all her decisions. “Having a small family has helped by not making extraordinary demands and teaching as a job suits the family requirements. I am not an extrovert so being at home other than work is a blessing,” muses Ketaki.
Ketaki derives the greatest satisfaction from watching these students passing from school every year and coming back to their alma mater from time to time. About the future, she simply says, “I aspire to die a working horse with good health if God bestows it.”