A school dropout at age 12, now a high school teacher — meet Ramla PK from Kerala

Right through the first five years of her schooling, Ramla P K topped her class. But while in Class 6, she was forced to drop out. Reason? She was married off, aged 12.

Right through the first five years of her schooling, Ramla PK topped her class. But while in Class 6, she was forced to drop out. Reason? She was married off, aged 12. Belonging to a conservative Muslim family, her chances of redeeming her academic career, back in 1989, would have appeared slim. After becoming a mother of four, at 25, how bright would her prospects be? If people thought it was still dim, Ramla has proved them wrong. Now 45, she has acquired a master’s degree in Arabic, passed the State Eligibility Test, and is a high school teacher at the government-aided TIM Girls HSS in Nadapuram.
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“I was unable to imagine myself without even completing Class 10. But I didn’t know how exactly to resume my education,” Ramla says. She then happened to attend a class by an engineer in government service. He had dropped out of school in Class 4 but resumed education at 17, she recalls. “That was the trigger I was waiting for. If a Class 4 dropout can become an engineer, why can’t I who had studied up to Class 6? That question struck me,” she says. Ramla, the only daughter of Khadeeja, first shared her ambition with her step-father, Pokkar Musliyar. He readily agreed and she registered for SSLC in private mode. At 26, she passed Class 10 and registered for Afzal-ul-Ulama — a two-year foundation course in Arabic at Islamiya College in Kuttiyadi. She joined the bachelor’s degree course at the same college, graduating in 2010. “A lot of people supported me. A BSNL staffer, who came for the census at my home, told me that those who have turned 18 can write SSLC exams. Mumtaz, my neighbor, lent me the textbooks. A few teachers found time to tutor me at home. There were also occasions when they had to go back as my little children wouldn’t let me attend the class,” reminisces Ramla, with a smile.

My husband supported me to chase my dreams: Ramla

Eyeing a teacher’s job, she wished to do a diploma course in Language Education (DLed), which was equivalent to BEd at the time. She got in touch with the Government TTI in Nadakkavu only to be told, disappointingly, that the deadline for application had passed. But there was a glimmer of hope. “The authorities told me they can admit me if the Director of Public Instruction (DPI) permits. Fortunately, I got the DPI’s nod,” she says. The one-year course at Nadakkavu, 65 km away, was troublesome as Ramla had to stay in a hostel leaving her four children – two girls and boys each — at home. “Those were testing times. But my mother stayed at my house to look after the children. The two younger ones would go to the ankanwady while my mother would manage the other two. Somehow, I put up with all that and completed the course in 2012,” she says. The same year, on June 4, Ramla enrolled as an Arabic teacher at the TIM School. While in the profession, she completed her master’s and cleared SET. Slowly but steadily, she had wiped off the tears of her discontinued education. Ramla says her husband, Kunjabdulla M T, supported her wholeheartedly to chase her dreams. Her elder son is now employed in Abu Dhabi while the other three are pursuing higher education. Recently, the family had reason for huge cheer as the youngest girl, Hamna, cleared NEE T with the 13th rank in the state.