Overcoming obstacles to get young people back in school

By Shirantha Perera, World Vision Australia Portfolio Manager, India

Kanpur is a city in India famous for leather production. World Vision works here in a project that covers 22 slum communities. One specific challenge here is dealing with the high rate of school dropouts.  There aren't enough schools, and the ones that do exist can be unappealing because of the distance students must travel and the lack of a positive learning environment. Beyond that, poverty means there is a need for children to help their family earn money and work for children is easily available, leading to child labour.

During my visit in September 2016, I learnt about the remedial education program being implemented to overcome child labour in the area. The program set up a coaching centre, where children who weren't in school could come for several hours a day to study, be coached for exams to be readmitted to schools, or sit government exams as private candidates. The program also supported many of these students, especially girls, with bicycles to overcome the obstacle of distance and help them attend school.

Below are two stories of young people I met who had been forced to give up schooling in the past; fortunately both are now back on track with their studies with hope for a greater future.

World Vision helped Kanjan get back to school after eight years of working to support her family.

Kanjan’s story: working her way back after eight years

Kanjan is the youngest in a family of four siblings, parents and grandmother. Her father is a daily labourer. Kanjan had to leave school in the eighth grade when her mother lost her memory due to an electric shock and her father could not manage the family alone. Kanjan’s older brother also gave up school to find employment.

“Even one rupee, if I could earn, would be important and could add to support the family,” Kanjan said. She started work as a house maid. However, her determination to study and learn did not leave her.

When World Vision started coaching centres for school drop-out children, staff contacted Kanjan’s family and motivated her father to allow Kanjan to continue her studies without having to give up work. She had been out of school for eight years. With her mother recovering, Kanjan found that it was her time to get back to study.

Kanjan worked from 9am to 1pm and then attended coaching sessions to learn the school subjects. Through this coaching she was able to prepare herself to sit for government exams as a private candidate. Due to her determination and enthusiasm, Kanjan passed the 10th grade exam with a first-class mark.

When I met her, she was studying 12th grade English, mathematics and science with three hours of coaching a day.

Kanjan now dreams of going to college, becoming a teacher and studying further in the future.

Financial pressures meant Aman had to drop out of school to work with his father.

Helping Aman to go the distance for his education

Aman is 17 and lives with his parents, two elder sisters and younger brother and sister. When he was in the seventh grade the distance he had to walk to school and his family’s financial situation meant he gave up his studies, and as the eldest son in the family, he went to work. He assisted his father in balloon selling, as well as drumming at celebrations and special occasions.

He had been working for one year when World Vision approached his family to let Aman continue his studies. World Vision assisted with the school fees so that Aman could get readmitted, and donated a bicycle to help Aman to go to the same school. Now understanding the importance of schooling and education, his father promised to work extra hours so that Aman could continue his studies.

Today Aman is studying in 10th grade and is very happy as he also takes his younger brother with him to school on his bicycle. After completing 12th grade he wants to study engineering. He told me that he is determined to do better in his life and make a difference for himself and his family, while helping children in need.