Ragpicker’s quest for learning bears fruit

Raju Chandra at a petrol pump in Aluva, where he does part-time job .   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

In a month, Raju Chandra will turn 18.

Unlike all his previous birthdays, this time the youngster, who is originally from Andhra Pradesh, has something to cheer about.

He has become the first person to clear the higher secondary exams through regular schooling after having done an equivalent course of the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA).

His achievement is all the more credible considering his childhood, which could not have been any worse.

“I don’t know where my original home is as my parents dumped me and my two younger siblings at an orphanage at Ettumanur in Kottayam when I was four or five years old,” recalled Raju.

Flees to Kochi

As soon as he completed his primary schooling, his mother, however, forcibly took him to Kanyakumari. Two agonising years later, when he was forced into labour, he fled and came to Kochi. After a year in the streets as a ragpicker, he found a job in a juice shop. Then Jaifar, who ran a mobile shop in the neighbourhood, met him and took him under his wings.

“Jaifar ikka allowed me to stay with him, and I did my seventh standard equivalent course through the Literacy Mission,” said Raju.

At an orphanage

He then moved to Snehakoodu in Aluva, an orphanage under the District Child Welfare Committee, and got enrolled in Standard 9 at a nearby school with the help of K.M. Subaida, who was then the District Assistant Project Coordinator with KSLMA.

“The school authorities were reluctant to give admission to a dropout. However, we insisted, and he proved them wrong by clearing ninth and tenth standards,” said Ms. Subaida who also helped him enrol for Computer Science and Information Technology course at the higher secondary level.

Nursing a dream

“I always wanted to become a police officer, and I am now determined to pursue it,” said Raju who has been doing part-time job at a petrol pump at Karothukuzhy near Aluva since his Plus Two days.

Ms. Subaida, though now posted in Alappuzha, is making arrangements for PSC exam coaching for Raju, which will help him land his dream job.

He, however, has yet another dream. While he frequently meets his younger brother who is at an orphanage in Kottayam, he has no idea about the whereabouts of his parents and younger sister. “I want to build a home and find my family for a life of togetherness, which we never had before,” Raju signed off.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 7:58:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/ragpickers-quest-for-learning-bears-fruit/article27358695.ece

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