She worked for an annual salary of Rs. 6,500

K. Veeravadivu (18) was nine-year-old when she was forced to work as a child labourer.

She was rescued twice during her days as a child labourer for five years, after which she has worked hard to continue studies and emerge topper in her polytechnic college. “My struggles will come to an end when I become an engineer and support my family,” she said.

She scored 587/600 in the diploma board exams this year with 200/200 in computer hardware and networking, 198 in television engineering and 189 in embedded systems, with centum in the practical exams in all subjects. “I was the first in the class in all the six semesters and am glad to finish as the college topper,” the girl added. Being the eldest of three daughters, she discontinued schooling halfway through Class V and worked in a power loom unit owned by a relative. “My father S. Krishnan did not have a job and our family went without food for days. While going to school I went without proper food or a notebook. So I took my father’s advice and went to work,” she recalled.

“The agreement was to work for an annual salary of Rs. 6,500 (Rs. 540 per month). I worked from 6 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. I was too short to see the machine and handle spindles and often bruised my fingers and hands when they accidentally got caught. Each time I cried and decided that I will not go to work. But circumstances forced me to be back to work”, she said.

The wages included washing vessels and cleaning the floor of her employer’s house everyday. She said that she had to work for two days beyond the agreement period when she took leave for a day when she was injured or when she was a little late to work. She worked for three years for just Rs. 13,000 (salary for two years).

With this hard earned money her father started a tea stall in front of their rented house and is running it at Gurusamipalayam, Rasipuram Taluk. During her third year at work, she was identified by authorities who were picking up child labourers and enrolled her in the special school for rescued child labourers in Pillanallur.

She managed to study in that school during the lunch break in the power loom unit. “I was about to go to a regular school after a gap of three years but my mother underwent a major surgery. She could not do any work and I had no option but to discontinue schooling once again and work in another power loom unit in Thoopukadu for two years,” she said.She was rescued again and enrolled in a special school for rescued child labourers where her teacher warned action against her father if he made her work. After brushing up her reading, writing and listening skills she was enrolled in Class IX in mainstream schooling in the school where she studied five years ago. Veeravadivu scored 382/500 (76.4 per cent) in SSLC and was given a 50 per cent discount in the polytechnic fees in Excel Polytechnic College, Pallakapalayam, where she excelled. She wanted to join Electronics and Communication Engineering with the help of an education loan and support the education of her sisters .

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