Merasi School: Fridah Khan's Story

by Caitie / Dec 30, 2008 / 0 comments

Fridah Khan knows what she likes. And, if given the chance, she’ll tell you in a soft,
precise voice: dairy milk chocolates (in the purple wrapper), the color blue, dancing,
dangly earrings and peacocks. But what Fridah likes most of all is to have her picture
taken. She curls up to people and presses her index finger up and down, as if snapping a
photo. All the while, she is posing herself for the photograph. With one dry, tough hand,
she smoothes the wrinkles out of her clothes, making no effort to hide the oil stains and
loose threads acquired over hot cooking fires and pales of icy laundry water. She runs the
other hand through her tangled hair powdered with dust from the morning’s cleaning.
Then, she tilts her soft, round face into a striking portrait of composed vulnerability.
On paper, Fridah’s life reads like a study in vulnerability. She was born without a birth
certificate into a family that funneled their meager resources into her older brother, grew
up in a village where women are hidden in small, dusty kitchens, and bred to view herself
as domestic labor destined for a small, dusty kitchen. Her days were spent with smaller
children on her hip, sweeping endless tides of sand out of the house and searching the
desert dunes for firewood that was as scare as opportunity.

But vulnerability is not the protagonist in Fridah’s story. Her fibers are made of tougher
stuff than that. When Fridah saw The Merasi School, she knew she wanted to be
involved. But powerful social trends of entitlement and access that patterned her past and
forecasted her narrow future stopped her short of saying, “I want to come to school.” So,
not seeing an acceptable path in, Fridah built an entryway for herself.

One hot morning, Fridah stood at the front door to The Merasi School. She’d been
waiting for 30 minutes for the door to be unlocked. Once the door opened, she walked
straight towards a small heap of dirt and began to usher it expertly out of the building.
Then, she scrubbed the slates and shook out the rugs. When classes started, Fridah was
just finishing washing the floor. She had timed it perfectly. She hung up her rag, grabbed
a slate and squeezed into a classroom to learn abc’s for the first time in her life.
Fridah didn’t need to clean her way into school. Our doors are always wide open. But she
had been raised to prioritize the wishes of others, neglecting her desires until the realities
of a ruthlessly restricted life pounded the hope muscle out of her. Fridah looked inequity
in the face and then built a backdoor she could walk through.


Merasi School -  Fridah Khan

Fridah created just as many lessons for us as we did for her. Not every child will have the
gumption to hurdle the invisibles obstacles that can block our doorway. A child next door
could be just as removed from us as a child living four villages away. From Fridah, we
learned to extend our arm’s length even further, creating constant doorways to education.
It is not enough to ask a child if he or she wants to come to school. We must
communicate that they are wanted at school. And, gradually, work to build not just a
classroom, but a world where they are wanted.

Like Hayad Khan, Fridah is rewriting the course of history. But it’s not an isolated
narrative; it’s the story of countless kids who will be able to explode into full bloom
because Fridah uprooted the weeds and paved the way for them. We invite you to join
Fridah as she trailblazes into the future. For just $35 a month, you provide the structural
support necessary for Fridah to build a world that the next generation will want to inherit.

Caitie Whelan is the India Editor for Wandering Educators.

Publisher's note: The Merasi School is one of several
Humanitarian Organizations that Wandering Educators supports. If you'd
like to support the Merasi School personally, you can click here to support Hayad and other Merasi Students and programs.