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A frail looking lady, Sarala came with her talkative son to meet us in December 2021. She had passed her tenth, SSC exam, in Telugu medium, 18 years back in 2004, when she lived in her village near Tandur. Her father had taken seriously ill immediately after her tenth and she had to discontinue her studies to take care of him. Her father had lost his job because of his prolonged illness. After his recovery, he was finding it difficult to get another job. Sarala had two younger sisters who were in Classes 6 and 8 respectively. Though just 17, Sarala spiritedly took up a job as an assistant in a store to support the family and ensure her younger sisters did not drop out of school. Both the younger sisters, thanks to Sarala, went on to complete their schooling, successfully passing their Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams. One of the sisters secured a job and told Sarala that she would take care of the family for some time if Sarala wanted to pursue further studies.

But Sarala’s parents decided it was time for Sarala to get married as she had crossed 20 years of age. After her marriage in early 2010, Sarala had raised the issue of her studies with her husband, but he felt she, being a woman, didn’t need to do anything beyond SSC.

She gave birth to a son in 2012 and soon had her hands full running her household. Unfortunately, the husband turned out to be an alcoholic. A hapless Sarala watched her husband drink himself to death – he died of cirrhosis of the liver in 2015. With her 3-year-old son, she bravely decided to migrate to Hyderabad though her sisters and parents were against it.

She found a job as an assistant in a pharmacy. She continued to dream of doing a degree but she had to first cross the hurdle of passing the Intermediate (12th) exam. Obviously, no regular junior college would give her a seat in the Intermediate course, given her age of 25+ years and the gap of over 11 years since she had got her SSC certificate. Some had mentioned distance learning to her but she could not get proper information about how she could do her Intermediate course through distance learning.

In July 2021, she heard the owner of the pharmacy where she worked mention that someone he knew had just passed his Intermediate in one sitting after a gap of 10 years after SSC and was now joining college for a degree with that Intermediate certificate. Sarala requested him for more details about this direct intermediate course and after some searching on the internet through her mobile, she called us and came to meet us for more information.

We explained to Sarala how the Telangana Open School Society (TOSS) was established by the Government of Telangana initially to help school drop-outs complete their SSC course, writing the SSC exams in one sitting, appearing for five subjects, after doing the SSC course and preparing for the exams through Open and Distance Learning. Later the Telangana Open School Society introduce the Intermediate Course, giving students the facility of completing their Intermediate exams in one sitting, appearing for five subjects, after doing the Intermediate course and preparing for the exams through Open and Distance Learning.

With our help, Sarala filled up online on the website of the Telangana Open School Society, her application for the Intermediate course for the academic year 2021-22, with the exams scheduled in May 2022. After discussing with us, she chose her study centre and selected three subjects apart from the two languages, English and Telugu. She chose Telugu as her medium of instruction.