: Tales of children defying poverty in life to achieve success are to be publicised for emulation. Two such girls, who were victims of child labourers, had fought their way out thanks to the timely intervention of civil society.
Centre for Education Development and Research (CEDAR), a non-governmental organisation, had rescued N. Bharathi and K.Gomathi of Kovilpatti and supported them to complete their higher education.
During the release of a study report on child labourers in Virudhunagar, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli, the efforts of the girls were appreciated by the participants here on Thursday.
Bharathi of Samathuvapuram near Tippanathur in Kovilpatti braved odds as a child labourer and completed her college studies.
Child of a match industry worker, who had fallen sick for long and a farm hand, Bharathi had lost two years of her childhood working in a factory at Eppodhumvendran near Tuticorin. She says, “There is a feeling among a few non-scheduled castes to curb dalits.”
Gomathi of Kovilpatti became a constable. After completing standard X, she was forced to work in a safety match industry for six months but she resisted the move and joined school. She became a postgraduate in social work.
T. Chinnaraj Joseph Jaikumar, author of the study, said that the 1970s and 80s were a crucial period where the failure of development economics resulted in small capital being invested and this saw a flourish in match making and fireworks industry in Sivakasi and Virudhunagar. For this there was an adequate need for cheap labour and this saw a huge flow of child labour.
One of the major interventions of CEDAR which is part of Southern Collective for New Initiatives on Childhood where other NGOs working in southern districts are also part of include rescue and rehabilitation, mainstreaming of child labourers through National Child Labour Programme, child rights awareness and campaign, school enrolment and retention work, monitoring of Balwadis and ‘Beyond School Support’ work.
Prominent among this is collectivisation of children in the age group 5 to 18 to cater the need for creating child-supportive space beyond classrooms that can guarantee holistic development of each child.
Of the total 144 villages, 83 villages (57.6 per cent) could raise children collectives with mixed membership of dalit and non dalit children. However 45 villages could raise children collectives which are of exclusively dalit membership. And 16 villages could raise children collectives exclusively with non dalit children.
Apart from the agency of the child, other factors like numerical dominance of a particular caste, caste discrimination practices prevalent and perpetrated by a given community and the nature of housing settlements, were factors which interfered with either exclusiveness or inclusiveness in the case of collectives.
Mr. Chinnaraj said that civil society should participate in the transformational experience of schooling; adequate emotional support to the underprivileged children beyond schooling is required to check drop outs and child labour.
Earlier, the study report was released by Bharath Krishna Shankar, chairman Aparajitha Corporate Services, and the first copy was received by Govindhan, Assistant Commissioner of Labour, Madurai in the presence of public speaker and writer, S.Raja.