Salem initiative helps them realise their dream

Once they slogged in the dingy rooms of powerlooms and silver anklets making units for hours mainly to augment their family earnings. But today, they are the proud products of SMILE schools with their dreams on the verge of becoming a reality. These rehabilitated child labourers who studied in 39 SMILE (Society for Monitoring and Implementation of Child Labour Elimination) special schools run under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) in Salem district, have put smiles on the faces of their teachers and parents when they proved that the social discrimination had not dampened their spirits of pursuing education against heavy odds and with aplomb. A total of 130 students, boys and girls, appeared for the recently held Plus II examinations of which 112 had passed out — not a mean record when compared to the results of many other private and aided matriculation schools. Three students scored above 1000 while 12 others logged between 900 and 950 marks. The courses are mainly vocational.

P. Balaguru of the SMILE School at Narayana Nagar topped the list with 1069 marks. He was a labourer in a powerloom where he used to work for nearly 12 hours a day for measly earnings of Rs 30. The team from SMILE rescued him and brought him back into the mainstream. “Today he is proud and so are we,” said SMILE Project Director P.V. Viswanathan.

M. Deepanraj from VM Nagar School finished a close second with 1043 marks while V S Priyadarshini of Kamanaickenpatti School came third with 1019 marks.

Both were one-time workers at silver anklets making units, known for employing child labourers claiming that the nimble fingers of children alone could make deft carvings in silver anklets.

Collector J Chandrakumar congratulated the SMILE team and its dedicated teachers. The scheme is being implemented in 12 districts from which 20017 children have been enrolled in 422 special schools and of which 21352 have been rehabilitated since 1996. In Salem district from 1995-96, 7947 children have been identified as child labourers of whom 2090 children have been enrolled and 826 rehabilitated.

  • The social discrimination had not

    dampened their spirits

  • Collector J Chandrakumar congratulates the SMILE team and its dedicated teachers