Ten year-old Munni’s story is typical of the hundreds of children that benefit from the Education Scholarships for Child Laborers project in rural Haryana, India. Last October, Munni migrated with her parents and two siblings to Mewat’s brick kilns from West Bengal, a poor state in eastern India. Before coming into contact with the program, she and her 11 year-old brother Raju worked long days alongside their parents in Mewat’s brick kilns—often as late as 11PM. Poor and landless, the family has only shallow roots in their home village. When we asked Munni where she was from, she didn’t even know the name of her village and shrugged, “Bengal?”
Last fall, Raju and Munni took notice of the other children from the brick factory compound that were riding to school each day instead of working. Though they pleaded with their parents to join the bus and enroll in school, the parents declined. With Raju and Munni’s little sister too young to help meet the family’s brick quotas, their parents felt the family wouldn’t be able to earn enough money to survive without Raju and Munni’s labor.
After nearly a year of pleading, and with both encouragement and warnings from Lotus Outreach field staff (it is illegal for children under 14 to work in India), Munni’s parents finally relented. Reassured that transportation, supplies, lessons and meals would all be provided for free, they began to see the value of enrolling the children in school, as well as the legal risks in not doing so.
As a result of your support, Munni and Raju are now going to school every day and have near perfect attendance. Munni is a bit behind the curve and cannot read or write properly yet, but expresses a commitment to getting better and is particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of learning English in school—something she never fathomed back in her home village in West Bengal. Though struggling with her studies and the local language, Munni appears to be a quick learner and has the support and commitment of her teachers.
Munni is still young, but is already dreaming big. Her goal is to graduate high school one day and ultimately do something about other children who have to work in brick kilns. From her experience, she learned that it is far better for kids to be in school, and she does not want others to have to suffer the same fate as she has.
Thank you for giving Munni and her peers hope for a brighter future!
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