From child labourer to student
“My father dropped me to my first workplace. I could never tell him how much I wanted him to drop me to a school instead,” - Mohsin
Rajasthan has the third highest incidence of child labour in India and accounts for nearly 10% of India’s total child labour. The Rajastani city of Jaipur alone has more than 50,000 child labourers aged 5-14 years old.
“Bhatta Basti in Jaipur is notorious for child labourers who work on lac bangles within their households. Most of the adult members are either working on making jewellery or are unskilled labour. Substance abuse among children and adolescents is high. Dropouts are common as children become workers early on in life,” says Magic Bus’ Neelima, who is in charge of the Magic Bus programme here.
The community of Bhatta Basti looks a bit different from the shanties that dot the landscape of mega cities like Delhi or Mumbai: there are rows of pucca houses here –- with exposed red bricks and high ceilings. However, many houses have no roof at all. An open drain underlines the sorry state of hygiene in the area. People who call Bhatta Basti home are largely from a single community, engaged in bangle-making, stone-cutting or tailoring.
One such member of the community is 19 year old Mohsin Farukhi.
“My father worked as a stone-cutter in a nearby shop. My elder brother joined him after he finished his seventh standard because we were in desperate need of money. My younger brother failed in the eighth standard and started work at a local watch repair shop. My father stopped going to work once both my brothers started earning. When they got married and had their own children, they could barely spare any money to support the family. This is why my parents started putting pressure on me to start working,” explains Mohsin.
Consequently, he dropped out of school after Class 7 (aged 12) and started assisting in a shoe shop where he was paid Rs 5 for working 12 hours a day.
“My father dropped me to my first workplace. I could never tell him how much I wanted him to drop me to a school instead,” Mohsin looks away as he shares the memories of his first day at work.
He didn’t stick to his first job for long. He soon made friends in the neighbouring stores and found a different place to work, with better pay. “I realised one thing: there are always jobs available for children like us because we can be paid less and made to work more.”
Three years ago, aged 16, Mohsin came along to a Magic Bus session. Having never had the time to be with children his own age, Mohsin took a strong liking to the activity-based sessions.
“The person leading the session sat us down in a circle and asked how many of us went to school. I saw several hands in the air and ran away in embarrassment,” he recounts. Sarfaraz, who was conducting the session that day, saw Mohsin leave in a hurry and decided to find out more about him. He called on him the next day when he was leaving for work and Mohsin confided in him his eagerness to learn. “If you want to go to school, who is stopping you?” Sarfaraz asked and Mohsin explained his situation.
That day, Sarfaraz left Mohsin with a hope, “You can still study. I will help you get re-enrolled.” The support he was looking for within his family came to him in the form of a mentor he could trust.
When Sarfaraz spoke to Mohsin’s parents, he found out about the abject condition they were in. Sarfaraz approached an NGO and mobilised funds for Mohsin’s education. Mohsin negotiated with his father to allow him to go back to school in return for working to support the family and, after being out of school for three years, Mohsin went back to school. He enrolled in Class 10 in a private school but found his challenges were far from over.
“I found the lessons difficult. After all these years, I found it difficult to concentrate. It was exhausting to work and study simultaneously,” he shares. Unfortunately, Mohsin failed the Class 10 examination. “His parents persuaded him to discontinue education. They didn’t think it was a worthy investment. But Mohsin persisted in his attempts. And of course, we stood by his decision,” says Sarfaraz.
Today, Mohsin has completed Class 12 and aspires to become a nurse. “I am, by far, the most educated in my family. My parents never went to school and my brothers dropped out. I don’t want to stop here. I want to study further and work in dignity,” he shares.
Regardless of where his final destination is, Mohsin can inspire every single person who wants to learn.
To help Magic Bus support more young people like Mohsin, please see how you can help.
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