When we talk about children, we mostly think about happy kids who have big dreams; children who don’t have a care in the world, running and jumping around with friends, doing things that children are usually supposed to do. But there is another side to this; one which is filled with children struggling to set foot inside a classroom, yearning to own the story books on display in some book shop, dreaming of flying an air-plane in their cold harsh world of sleeping with the entire family on the floor of a single room house. This Children’s Day we bring you stories of courage from various places of India; children who are from very poor backgrounds, children for who, eating two meals a day is a struggle and yet they attend their classes regularly at the Mission Education centres run by Smile Foundation across India.
” It is a hard life when you live in poverty, especially when you are a child. There are so many things that you want, but you cannot have them because you do not have the means to get them. Do you know what I wanted the most? I wanted to go to school regularly. Not just when my parents could afford it.
Both my parents are day labourers. Some days are good and they get work, and some days are not so good. When my parents get work, we can eat food that day; else we just manage like that.
I study in Grade 4 in Mission Education centre in Mankhurd. I see children of my age with so many good things – things I wish I could have. But what I want most is to gain knowledge about everything. I want to study hard. And one day, be able to provide for my family. I want to become a doctor when I grow up and help out the poor and needy people. I wish to remove poverty from our lives and this Children’s Day I pledge to do my best and make my dreams come true.”
Preeti, Sunaina, Rita and Azra
“All of us go to the same school. Our parents did not want us to study initially but didi from the Mission Education centre convinced them that the education was free of cost and it will empower us for the future. Our parents work as agricultural labourers and cannot afford many things and we want to change that. Most girls in our village are married by the age of 14 or 15 but we are more interested in getting an education. Imagine how good it will feel when we can buy any amount of colour pencils or candy or ribbons for our hair with our own money and take our parents to see the big monuments in Delhi!”
Preeti, Sunaina, Rita and Azra study in a Mission Education centre of Smile Foundation in Uttar Pradesh. They are some of the few girls who attend school regularly. This Children’s Day they have pledged to sensitise other girls and their families about the benefits of girl-child education.
“One day when Baba came home from work, he asked if I had completed my homework. He got very angry when I said I hadn’t. The next day, he took me to his workplace- the tea garden. Baba is a tea picker and spends the entire day in the garden, even if it rains or the sun is too hot. He said- “Look, Vishnu. If you don’t study hard enough, you will not get the right education. And if you don’t get the right education, you will not get a good job. If you don’t get a good job, you’ll have to work in the tea garden like I do. And trust me son, you’ll not love this job. If you are able to do what you love, you will never feel like it’s a burden.
When I came back home, I thought about what Baba had said and started studying hard. And today I was announced as the best student of my class. I think now I will be able to do what I love to, and it won’t feel like a burden to me.”
-10 year old Vishnu Kanda studies in Grade 5 at Mission Education Center near Adarani Tea Garden in Tripura.
This Children’s Day he pledges to study hard and make his father proud.
Mission Education programme of Smile Foundation is among the leading programmes aimed at promoting and pushing for child education. With more than 261 centres in 22 states of the country, Mission Education supports more than 37,000 children every year by providing remedial and formal education. Since its inception in 2002, more than 200,000 children have benefitted from the programme. Out of the total students under Mission Education, 51% have been girls.