Kartik says, "My parents are not making me study, they send me to work. At work whatever my employer orders me to do, Im suppose to carry out those tasks otherwise Im scolded. But if I study, Im thinking I would like to be a teacher when I grow up".

Karthiks parents are daily wage earners whose monthly income is Rs. 2000. They say, "Whatever we get on daily basis in not sufficient even for a single meal in a day. We dont even know if we will get our next meal as that depends on whether well get work. We wish that our children get educated but we dont get our money on time, due to which we are forced to send our children to work. The condition of our family is not good. We dont even get food to eat, so how can we send our children to study. Thats why we are putting our children to work so that we may get little money. Even if we want we are unable to provide our children with books. If you have anything to give us, you may as then we will be able to send our children to school.

Karthiks employer on the contrary exclaims, "If you come and ask us like this, we will not be able to tell you anything, If you are talking about educating children, we know that its good but the parents of these children borrow money from us. When they are unable to pay us back, they put their children to work with us. At least when we make these children work, we are able to get back some part of our money".

The Headmaster of Kartiks school highlights, "Nowadays only if children study, they will be able to live properly in the future. Many children keep wandering here and there but do not come to school. We are trying hard to enroll such children in school. Though in our school, we have very little staff due to which the teachers do not get the time to pursue these children and enroll them. It is due to this reason that many children continue to be outside formal schooling".

Nadim Shokat Ali – Balwadi student, Maharashtra
Nadim Shokat Ali when came to Shabana’s Balwadi, was one of the naughtiest child in the class.  He was very mischievous in the class,, not listen to anybody, not play in the group, not even study.  But from his mother we found out that he was exactly the opposite at home.  He was very silent at home.

Then Shabana thought of handling the child in a different way.  Through counseling she politely explained him how to behave in the class, how to work in group, how to maintain neatness.  Through the various balwadi teaching techniques, the teacher was able to bring a difference in his behavior.  He starting behaving in the class, sat with other children, started concentrating in the studies. Initially he didn’t knew anything.  Now he is able to read words. 

With the Pratham material, the balwadi children are able to develop their motor skills and also increase their reading ability.

The success stories of two former child labourers in Sitamarhi - June 2008

This is the season for exams results.  Almost daily there are announcements in the newspapers celebrating the success stories from board exams, from IIT and JEE entrance exams. The entire state takes pride in the excellent performance of such children.  Less visible and completely unsung, a different kind of success story was unfolding last week. Two young boys in Sitamarhi – Saroj Kumar and Santosh Paswan cracked the Navodaya entrance exams held earlier this year.  Until two years ago, both boys worked in zari karkhanas.  It is only since then, while they have been living in the Pratham Gyanshala that they have had a chance to study.

Saroj Kumar is 13.  He is the son of 60 year old Sri Yogendra Ram and 55 year old Suryakala Devi.  The family lives in Bhavanipur village in Parihar block of Sitamarhi district.  Yogendra Ram works as a majdoor (labourer) in Parihar and earns 3 kilos of dhan in return of his daily toil.  Saroj’s two elder brothers Vinod Ram (22) and Manoj Ram (16) work in zari factories and earn meager wages of Rs 1200 per month. Of his four sisters, three are married.  The youngest is ten year old Mamta who takes care of buffaloes. 

Since he was eight till he was eleven, Saroj worked in a zari karkhana in infamous Dharavi slum in Mumbai.  He was made to work from 9 in the morning to 11 in the night.  All that he got in return were two square meals a day. In March 2006, he was rescued from the inhuman working conditions in Dharavi and brought to a Pratham Gyanshala (residential program for child labourers in Sitamarhi.  After two years of a normal childhood, Saroj is now excelling in several fields.  Apart from becoming good in studies, he has also played kabaddi and kho kho in district level tournaments.

Santosh Kumar Paswan’s story is not very different.  He used to work in a zari factory in Ahmedabad.  For his sweat and hard work from seven in the morning to twelve at night, he was given fifteen rupees a week and two meals to eat per day.  Santosh’s father Dinesh Paswan is an agricultural labourer; one older brother works as a labourer in Punjab while the other works in the zari industry in Ahmedabad. Santosh was also rescued in 2006 and came to live in the Pratham Gyanshala in Sitamarhi.

The two children are very happy but they may not realize the magnitude or significance of what they have achieved. They have shown us that with the right opportunity and support, a child can go very far : in just two years from being a child labourer, they have become merit scholars with every possible growth path opening up in front of them.  We salute these children, and many more like them and all those who worked with them to make the impossible possible.