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November 21, 2007

The Secret Night School

After a day working in the fields, these Indian children get their one, clandestine chance at an education.

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Teacher Kishan Kanwar, 32, has caused outrage in the rural village of Cheeri. India's ancient caste system may be officially banned, but it still lives on in hearts and minds. The tradition dictates that, as a member of the Rajput (upper) caste, Kanwar should never mix with those beneath her. Yet most of the girls in her after-dark classroom are "untouchables," members of the very lowest caste, whose destiny is to work the family land before marrying early into other households, often as child brides. Kanwar's choice of career is scandalous, but she remains deeply committed. Without her, these desperately poor students would never have the opportunity to learn. The secret covenant she has made with them is a hushed yet revolutionary force of change.


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