Hardship pushes 16-year-old Chennai student into doing odd jobs

Samuel looks to enroll in Class 11, while supporting his family

Updated - September 19, 2020 10:04 am IST

Published - September 18, 2020 11:55 pm IST - CHENNAI

Difficult times:  L. Samuel is seen cleaning a drain in Koyambedu, Chennai, on Thursday.

Difficult times: L. Samuel is seen cleaning a drain in Koyambedu, Chennai, on Thursday.

When 16-year-old L. Samuel, who is waiting to enroll in Class 11, was found cleaning a stormwater drain in Koyambedu market on Wednesday, little did anyone know of his dream to become an IPS officer. It is this dream that pushed him to take up menial jobs.

He wants to earn enough to be able to continue his education and at the same time support his family members, who live in a slum in Kodungaiyur.

A narrow lane in Kodungaiyur’s R.R. Nagar, opposite a dumping yard, leads to the single-room house of Mr. Samuel. He lives with his parents Lucaraj and Rebbeca and sisters Sheeba and Salomi. In his almirah are certificates he received for taking part in a young scientist workshop and sports and painting competitions.

“I completed Class 10 from the Government High School in Kannadasan Nagar, and scored 308 marks. All my teachers used to encourage me. My father is an autorickshaw driver and during the lockdown, he was not able to earn. My mother, who was a sweeper at the Dr. MGR Chennai Central Railway station, too, does not have a job now,” he said.

There is only one smartphone in his house and it is being used by his elder sister Sheeba, who joined college recently. “I know that I will need a phone to attend online classes once I enroll in Class 11, and my sister too can use it when I get one. So I decided to work without telling my father and save money to buy a phone, and also for my education and to support my family,” the teenager said.

But he does not find work every day. On the days that he does, he earns anywhere between ₹300 and ₹500 a day. “I reprimanded him when I found out on Thursday that he has been doing such odd jobs. He is good at everything and I am struggling to ensure a good future for my children. I want all my children to study well and get good jobs,” said Mr. Lucaraj.

Mr. Samuel said he would not go for work henceforth and would focus on studies.

On Friday evening, DMK youth wing leader Udhayanidhi Stalin gifted Mr. Samuel a laptop at a DMK meeting in Perambur.

Many like him

There are several other children like Mr. Samuel, who have been struggling to continue their education. Samson (name changed) from the same locality is now in Class 12. But since his mother does not have a job now, he has started cleaning cars to support his family and continue studies.

There are children who are doing odd jobs to make enough, just to purchase smartphones so that their siblings can continue their education. Virgil D. Sami, director, Arunodhaya Centre for Street and Working Children, said her team visited several pockets in north Chennai, as part of a study, and found that many children had started working to support their families during the lockdown, and were continuing to do so.

“The children cannot attend online classes as they do not have enough money to purchase mobile phones, and their parents have lost their jobs. Since many live in cramped houses, they cannot access televised lessons. Many children are frustrated due to their inability to attend classes,” she said.

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