Once his hard earned wage of Rs. 100 per month brought smiles to the family. Today, it was much more than that when M. Dhanasekar secured 460 marks out of 500 in the SSLC examinations.
Born in a migrant labour family, M. Dhanasekar was asked to take up a job in a plastics manufacturing company in Dadagapatti for a wage of Rs. 100 per month after he completed Class II. Later, he joined a silver anklet making unit at Nethimedu and was paid Rs. 600 a month.
“I was asked to take up a job and I did that,” said Dhanasekar, who could not recall the plight of the family then. He was rescued during a raid against child labour and admitted to Class Two in a special school run under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) in Maniyanur near Salem in 2007. He was taught basic letters and general subjects that facilitated him to join Class VI in the regular stream in the Government Boys HSS in Guhai in Salem.
“His involvement in learning and attitude was good,” said his NCLP teacher Thulasi. “Every month, we monitored his activity in the regular school apart from motivating his parents to allow him to continue studies”, the teacher said.
His brother Senthil, who had completed Class XII and is working, said, “our parents could not feed all the four children. Also, after moving from Thoppur we did not find any school here and Dhanasekar was sent to work to support the family.”
Dhanasekar, who scored 96 in Tamil, 76 in English, 95 in Mathematics, 97 in Science and 96 in Social Science said he never expected such high scores. “My efforts have been recognised and my parents are happy” was all that he would say.
Across the western region, children, who had once worked at eateries, construction sites, and industries, have proven their mettle in the SSLC examinations this year.
According to details available with officials of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP), 161 rehabilitated child workers appeared for the SSLC examinations this year in Dharmapuri District. About 100 of them have been successful. V. Karthik of Palacode has scored 475. He was rescued from a construction site in 2007. He studied at the special centre run under the project and joined Class VIII at a regular school.
In Coimbatore District, 10 rehabilitated child workers wrote Class X examinations this year and eight of them have emerged successful. Six of them scored more than 350. N. Vigneshkumar, who was rescued from a brick kiln in 2010, is from Kambalapatti, near Pollachi. He scored 414.
In Tirupur District, nine rescued child workers made a mark in the examinations. Sunil Kumar (17), from Delhi and now residing in Tirupur, was one of them.
Sunil Kumar, V. Jayashri, R. Chandra, D. Soundharya, B. Vishnupriya, M. Panchavarnam, P. Franklin Rajkumar, S. Kathrivel and M. Devanesh were rescued from various textile units a few years ago and rehabilitated at special schools run by SAVE, an NGO for rescued child workers, before being put in mainstream education.
The other children come from different parts of Tamil Nadu with their parents, who were looking for jobs in the textile industry.
The students now have one thing to say in common. “We want to get educated at a higher level despite the financial constraints, and want to fight against child labour.”
Many of them became child workers out of financial compulsions as they hailed from poor families.
“My mother has been a heart patient and the wages of my father, a casual labourer, did not help us meet the treatment expenses and hence. I started working in a textile unit at the age of eight,” M. Panchavarnam told The Hindu.
Sunil Kumar came to Tirupur seven years ago with his mother, Sakunthala Devi, dreaming of making a decent living in the knitwear city, after his mother faced a strained relationship with her husband.
Sunil wants to become an Indian Police Service officer. So do a few others like S. Kathrivel, who scored the highest marks of 375 out of 500 among the nine children, and Panchavarnam.
R. Chandra wants to become a teacher and Jayasri and Vishnupriya doctors.
“Of course, we will have to work hard by attending extra shifts in textile units to make money to meet the expenses for the studies of our children,” the parents said.