Such institutions can be counted on the fingertips in the state’s villages, but their contribution cannot be underestimated,especially in the face of the orthodox view that girls need not be well-educated — after all, as many village elders say, what is of foremost importance is their marriage. Run by a 15-member charitable trust, Mai Bhago College for Women at Ramgarh, near Ludhiana is rendering valuable service to around 100 surrounding villages. Set up in July,1990, it has to a great extent depended on donations from NRIs. It now has a student strength of 521 with 19 teachers and eight other staff members.
Fighting against odds, the college, with a 1.75 acre campus and grounds measuring 5.5 acres donated by Ramgarh residents, about 1km away, has managed to introduce nine courses, including home science, physical education and sociology. It also runs a vocational course in computers — unusual in a rural institution — and another one in dress designing. Students attending postgraduate classes in Punjabi and history, however, have to appear as private examinees. The institution got affiliation to Panjab University in July last. Inadequate funds has forced the trust to stick to undergraduate arts classes, compelling girls with interest in science to make a beeline for city colleges. It all started with residents of Ramgarh collecting Rs 1.87 Lakh for the project (May,1990). Each trustee of the Mai Bhago Educational Charitable Trust was required to give Rs 2.50 lakh for the institution. Mr C.S.Atwal, Punjab Speaker, donated Rs 25,000. Donations came, too from NRIs — Rs 15 lakh in 1993 and Rs 11.5 lakh in 1998. The SGPC pitched in with Rs 6.15 lakh and also donated books worth Rs 50,000. Interestingly, over the past 10 years or so only once, when Mr T.R. Sarangal was the Deputy Commissioner, has the Ludhiana district administration given financial aid of a measly Rs 1 lakh. To encourage parents to send their wards to the college, the trust has hired seven mini buses which ply on 10 routes, picking up students from various villages. The institution has kept the tuition fee low, on the pattern of government colleges. Teachers for subjects like physical education, economics, sociology, home science and political science are overworked. Each of them has to take five or more periods daily. The teaching staff do not get proper salary as well. Each teacher gets between Rs 3,000 and Rs 3,500, which is around one-fifth of the UGC pay scales. Home science teachers have additional problems as the laboratory is short of equipment. When practical work is to be done, the class has to be divided into small groups, leading to a wastage of time and extra labour on the part of the teacher. Mr M.S.Mangat, trust president and chairman of the managing committee, says the college does not get any government funds. He says though the staff salaries are low, these were paid on time. The management fears that if the tuition fee is hiked, many parents may withdraw their children from the college. Dr Swaran Singh, a trustee, says the government must provide adequate funds to rural colleges encouraging women education. If such education is ignored, development as a whole suffers, he says.