The first statue of Fatima Sheikh was unveiled in Andhra Pradesh.

The first statue of Fatima Sheikh was unveiled in Andhra Pradesh. She is one of the first Muslim woman teachers in modern India. The ceremony was held at the Zilla Parishad Urdu High School, Yemmiganur town in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district. Fatima Sheikh was one of India’s finest social reformers and educators bearing the credit of being the first Muslim woman to have tutored modern education in the country. A couple of social reformers, Jyoti Rao Phule and Savitribai, who fought to promote girls’ education, were known to have lived with her.

Fatima Sheikh encouraged the couple to establish the first all-girls school in Bombay Presidency at the former’s home in erstwhile Poona and taught students at all five Phules’ schools. She established two schools in Mumbai on her own in 1851 and also played an important role in teaching Dalit children. Earlier, the Andhra Pradesh government added a lesson on Fatima Sheikh’s contributions to the eighth-class textbooks. Fatima’s statue was donated to the school by Nakkmittala Srinivasulu. The ceremony cited attendees including Patnam Rajeswari, who led the programme and High School headmaster, Kondaiah, teachers and students.

Who is Fatima Sheikh?

Fatima Sheikh, born on January 9, 1831, in Pune. She was a feminist and an icon who co-founded one of India’s first schools for girls, the Indigenous Library in 1848, alongside social reformers Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule. Sheikh reportedly met Savitribai Phule at a teacher training institution run by an American missionary, Cynthia Farrar. She also took part in the founding of two schools in Bombay in 1851. Phule and Sheikh taught the marginalised communities of Dalit, Muslim  women and children, who were discriminated against, based on religion, caste, or gender and denied education.

Sheikh actively took part in the equality movement, ‘Satyashodhak Samaj’ (Truthseekers’ Society), to provide educational opportunities to the downtrodden communities. She went door-to-door to invite people to the Indigenous Library, seek education and break through the rigid Indian caste system.

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