Photos: In Jodhpur, an institute offers child brides a home, another chance

Updated: Mar 06, 2018 11:42 IST

Popularly known as ‘Ret ka Tila’ (sand dune), girls from the Veerni Institute run up the mound in the evening after classes to play. Veerni, a residential institute in the desert of Rajasthan, is giving child brides and other girls a chance to finish school, graduate, pick and pursue a career. (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

Two girls catch a nap in their dorm at the Veerni Institute. The institute has been able to convince families to send their daughters away from home, assuring them of a safe space of learning and interpersonal bonding. The dorms are a reflection of the girls’ personal preferences—the walls often donning posters and maps. (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

Shobha (centre) is seen in an emotional moment with her father, who came to visit her after a long break. Currently in 12th grade, with exams around the corner, Shobha was upset over a small incident the day before and seeing her father probably triggered an array of emotions. Parents are allowed to visit their children on the last two Sundays of each month. (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

Pictured in the centre, Shobha inflates a balloon during the farewell party of students of the 12th grade at the Veerni Institute. Dressed in traditional Rajasthani wear, the girls were also part of a dance competition. “Many former students are now teachers. One has set up a yoga centre,” says Mahendra Sharma, director of Veerni Institute. (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

Relatives of girls at the Veerni Institute leave after visiting them at the premises. It was Mahendra Sharma, director of the Veerni Institute who did the rounds in the early years, door to door, convincing parents that their daughters would have a better life if they moved to the facility, focused on school and college and got an education. (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

Two child brides are pictured a little further into the sand dunes close to the Veerni Institute. Radha, one of the child brides, says she wants to become an IPS officer “so that I can stop child marriages from occurring and ensure that girls study further.” Suman, 16, who is now in Class 11, wants to be a teacher or police officer. (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

Students in a class at the Bal Gopal School in Jodhpur. From the Veerni Institute, 6th grade to 8th grade students are sent here to study. (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

Life is disciplined and structured around the school day, at the single- storey institute—which also has a computer lab, sewing room and a playground with see-saw and roundabout. On the terrace, however, is a casual affair. Girls often come out here to dry clothes, sometimes just gaze at the landscape outside as well as jump off the water tank stand for fun, as seen here. (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

“One man asked if we could enrol his daughter-in-law and his daughter, who was also married as a child,” said Mahendra Sharma. “Over the years, because the girls are studying further, the boys in the nearby villages have also become more motivated to finish their education.” (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

Weekends are lighter, with more time for recreation and rest, and an hour for TV. (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

The girls from the institute say goodbye to the wife of one their staff members who was leaving the institute for a vacation. There are no cellphones allowed, no make-up on school days. They can speak to their parents on Sundays on the matron’s phone. “Our aim,” says Sharma, “is to equip the girls with skills and see to it that they can get a job.” (Anushree Fadnavis / HT Photo)

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