When her father Venkatapathi, a construction worker of airport area, passed away a few years ago, the hopes of young V. Mahalakshmi of continuing her education ran into rough weather. The meagre income of her mother, also a construction worker, was not adequate enough for the family of four to make both ends meet.
Mahalakshmi, then studying in class V in a private school had no option, but to quit studies to work in the households. Luck smiled on Mahalakshmi, when the teachers attached to the child labour special school, Sepattu, functioning under the Child Labour Elimination and Effective Rehabilitation Society (CHEERS), during a special survey in 2007 spotted her.
They admitted her in the special school. Later she was admitted to the Corporation High School, Kamarajnagar, in class VI. Mahalakshmi, who was waiting for such an opportunity, grabbed the same with both hands. She excelled in studies when she finished the class topper in the same year. Since then she did not look back.
The CHEERS and the teachers of the special school and the Corporation school were expecting Mahalakshmi to do well in the SSLC exams. She did not fail them. Fighting all odds, she secured 473 marks (Tamil 95, English 83, Maths 98, Science 98, Social Studies 99), to be the school topper.
Her mother never supported her and always wanted her to take up household works. She abused her for being always with school books at home. “But I never took it seriously and concentrated on my studies”, she says with a smile.
The teachers of the special school and the CHEERS officials visited the corporation school every month to evaluate the performance of the former child labourers studying here. Every time, they encouraged Mahalakshmi, which instilled confidence in her.
Mahalakshmi wants to join polytechnic college for pursuing diploma course, get employed and later pursue engineering through evening college. “My ultimate aim is to become a software engineer,” she says