Remembering Jyotirao Phule: The Pioneer of Women’s Education in India

Jyotirao Phule, popularly known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, was an Indian social activist, thinker, anti-caste social reformer, and writer, hailing from Maharashtra. His work included the abolition of untouchability and the caste system, as well as initiatives to educate women and oppressed caste people.

Like Syed Ahmad Khan and Ram Mohan Roy, he viewed education as critical to the progress of his people, the rural masses of western India. He strongly believed that society could not advance and flourish without correctly disseminating knowledge, particularly among women.

Phule supported Western education and advocated for free and mandatory primary education till the age of 12. He also campaigned for the lower class to obtain technical education. He sought for children in rural regions to receive an education. He believed that the goal of patronising education was to prepare scholars who, in time, would be capable of offering education for free.

In 1847, Jyotiba Phule graduated from high school. In 1840, he married Savitri Bai. When it comes to women's education in India, the couple were pioneers. Jyotiba Phule educated and urged his wife to educate girls. Savitri Bai became the country's first female teacher as a result of his support.

Phule read stories to the girls, played games with them, shared sweets, and taught them about sanitation. It was as though he had taken on the role of their mother. He used to teach them reading, writing, grammar, and mathematics. The number of pupils grew quickly and he continued with the support of Savitribai.

He established the first school for girls in India in August 1848, followed by schools for children from the Mahar and Mang Dalit groups.

Phule established the first native library for low-caste pupils in 1854. He established a night school in his home in 1855. After persistent efforts, the government ultimately agreed to offer him adequate funds for public education. In 1857, the government granted him a plot on which to build a school.

In 1873, Phule and his followers formed the Satyashodhak Samaj (society of truth seekers) to fight for equal rights for the poor and lower castes.

Phule advocated for widow remarriage and established a home for lower and upper-caste widows in 1854. He also opened a shelter for newborn infants to combat female infanticide. By opening his home and allowing people of the lower castes to use his water well, Jyotiba Phule attempted to remove the stigma of social untouchability that surrounded the lower castes.

Jyotibai Phule is rightly regarded as the Father of the Indian Social Revolution. His devotion to social transformation will serve as an inspiration to future generations.