Kamlesh says that affording schoolbooks, uniforms or shoes is not the only challenge. On top of that, walking to school from the brick kiln is extremely unsafe. She has already lost a son in a road accident.
Forty miles south of New Delhi, on the outskirts of the town of Hathin in Mewat district, several brick kilns are firing up again after the four-month rest period during monsoon. The thousands of migrant laborers, and their children, who come to work in Mewat’s brick kilns are poor, landless, illiterate and often members of scheduled castes and tribes. Although there are local educational government benefits for children of the lowest socio-economic castes, migrant laborers’ children are excluded from these benefits because of their migrant status. Educational Scholarships to Child Laborers works to extend those benefits to migrant children and provide them with safe transportation to and from school across several miles of heavily lorry trafficked roads – those who have experienced the roads in India firsthand know exactly how dangerous and frightening these roads can be.
Meet Kamlesh, and three of her children: Sushil, Laxmi, and the youngest, Priya. Kamlesh married a man from Delhi and they now have eight children. Their eldest son, now 26, works as a farm laborer and their eldest daughter, who studied until 3rd grade, is now married. Affording the costs of keeping their children in school has always been a great challenge for Kamlesh and her husband. All of Sushil’s older siblings stopped studying to labor in the brick kilns so they could supplement the family’s income.
In 2009, when Lotus Outreach began a transport system for the children of families laboring in the brick kilns, Kamlesh enrolled Sushil in 1st grade straight away. A year later, Kamlesh enrolled Laxmi who joined her brother’s class. Motivated by her siblings, Priya, the youngest, insisted her mother enroll her as well and she entered the school in 2012. Now all three siblings are excelling in their studies! According to their teachers at Bhanguri School in Hathin, they are all very diligent, active and intelligent.
Kamlesh expresses how appreciative she is of the teachers for imparting a good education and ethical values onto her children. She notes that her children’s behavior has changed and now they even ask their parents to behave and speak thoughtfully with everyone at the brick kilns!
“I am so happy my children are in school and I hope Sushil’s education will get him work as a clerk instead of as a laborer in the brick kiln. If my daughter can study up to at least the 10th grade, I’m sure she can marry into a decent family. Then she can live with dignity and will not be forced to work at a brick kiln from dawn till midnight.”