The Sensitive perception of the needs of improvised women in urban and rural Bengal and of the young oppressed widows led Lady Abala Bose, wife of eminent scientist, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, to formulate a pattern of education through the aegis of Nari Siksha Samiti to fulfill the crying demands of the time. A piece of land at 294/3 A.P.C. Rd. was donated to Nari Siksha Samiti by then Mayor of Calcutta Corporation, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, from where the activities of the Samiti Commenced and continues to do so till date.
Lady Abala Bose,Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Smt. Jadumati Mukherjee(Wife of Sir Rajen Mulkherjee), Eminent Scientist Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, Eminent Social Reformer Smt. Priyambada Banerjee, Eminent physician Sir Nilratan Sircar, Smt. Bimala Das, Sir Devaprasad Sarbadhikari, Sir D.C. Mitter, Swami Saradananda, shri Prafulla Tagore, Sri S.M.Bose,Smt. Charubala Mitter, Smt. Suprava Ray(Mother of Eminent Film Director, Sri Satyajit Ray) and many other eminent personalities of the emerging Bengal Renaissance.
In a paper entitled “The present state of Primary Education in Bengal” (Modern Review: March 1927), Lady Abala Bose Wrote, “In Bengal, unfortunately the results of primary education in enriching the lives of women have not been so pronounced. Several causes are responsible for this, and the problem of female education in Bengal is mainly the problem of Primary Education. The Custom of early marriage has put a limitation on the number of years that can be utilized for primary education. So the results that are possible in countries where a girl spends eight years on elementary education, cannot be expected in our society, where a girl finished her educational career before she is 12 and begins her married life within a year or two after this. It will not be out of place to mention here my own experiences in starting an association called The Nari Siksha Samiti whose principal objctive is to start Primary Schools in Bengal Villages. This question of popularizing primary education and the impetus to be given to this movement so that more girls could receive the benefits of education, has therefore been a matter of very great interest”.
The Samiti started with three schools in Calcutta and suburbs. The number of institutions gradually increased in the districts as well as in other parts of the city of Calcutta. The number of Adult Education Centers set up by the Samiti was 14. Most of these Schools have developed into High Schools and Colleges. To meet the growing dearth of teachers for these Schools, a scheme of Teachers’ Training was started in 1925(formally from 1935) within the premises of Nari Siksha Samiti.For the education of adult women the Sister Nivedita Adult Education Scheme was started in 1938. Initially, the activities of the Samiti started in a rented house in Badur Bagan Road prior to obtaining the Land from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation 294/3 A.P.C. Road. In order to enable the girls and women trained in the Samiti’s institutions to earn their living in honorable ways as respected members of the society, the following Vocational Training centers were established:
- Vidyasagar Bani Bhawan (Widows Home) (1922)
- Mahila Shilpa Bhawan(1926)
- Vidyasagar Bani Bhawan Training School (Jr, Sr.) 1935)
- Adult Primary Education Centre (General & Home Industries) (1938)
- Vidyasagar Bani Bhawan, Jhargram (1939)
The portion of the Samiti’s work had to be closed by the time of Partition of Bengal, and when in West Bengal the District Boards, Municipal authorities took over the responsibility of the schools and started establishing free primary schools in selected areas.
Post Independence Period:
It was observed by Lady Bose that “the conditions in the Society” have undergone a rapid change during the last thirty years. Girls are no longer married young, so there are few child widows. In many middle class families the parents themselves provide opportunities to their widowed wards for training to fit them to earn their own living. The problem now is to educate and rehabilitate displaced and economically distressed girls and adult women independent of their marital status. This is the principle on which inmates of the Bani Bhavan are at present recruited.