When her gangrene deprived her of her hands and feet three years ago, a plan to return to her students allowed Pratibhe Hilim, an Indian teacher, to overcome this terrible test.
At the age of 51 with a chalk or pencil hanging on his hand, he now tutors young children in the remote village of Karhe, east of Mumbai, where educational opportunities are minimal.
In 2019, Ms. Hilim developed a severe form of dengue fever, which was exacerbated by gangrene, which required amputation of the right hand. A few weeks later, surgeons are forced to amputate his left arm. Then both feet below the knees.
“When my first hand was amputated, I was desperate that I would not be able to do anything in the future. I fell into depression. I did not talk to anyone for eight days,” he says.
But Mrs. Hilim, encouraged by her family during her recovery, finds meaning in her life by returning to learning.
– Home tutoring –
She worked at a local elementary school for three decades. In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic closes all schools, it will start giving home hours to students whose parents are not rich enough to offer distance education to their children.
Schools reopened a few months ago, but 40 children from the village continue to attend classes.
“My kids like to learn,” says Eknath Laxman Harvate, a farmer whose daughter regularly attends Mrs. Hilim’s classes.
Like many children, Mr. Harvate had to leave school and go to work as a teenager because his family did not have enough money to pay for his education. He says he wants a better future for his own children.
“We will educate her whenever he wants,” he says of his city. “I would love to continue my studies so much. I’m sad that I had to quit and go to the field due to problems at home.”
Like most of her students, Pratibha Hilim is Adivasi, a general term for members of the indigenous tribes in India.
The Adivas are victims of deep discrimination, and the fact that they generally live in isolated regions leaves them on the brink of India’s economic boom.
In Karha, many families are forced to withdraw their children from school to force them to work.
“Once they know how to read and write, it is considered sufficient and the children are ready to go to the field,” regrets Ms Hilim.
The teacher tries to push the children to keep learning so that one day they can choose their own destiny.
She is currently waiting for prostheses and says that her own struggle to continue her profession proves the power of determination.
“I thought I was nothing without my limbs, but then I made a firm decision,” says Mrs. Hilim. “I decided I could do anything and I would do anything.”