The children had dropped out due to poverty, among other reasons.
Madhu Basti slum is located along the rail tracks in Majerhat, Kolkata, and is named after the occupation of its inhabitants who are honey collectors.Many of the children living there have dropped out of school, due to various reasons, but the chief one is poverty. Hence, most children here discontinue education, opting to venture into the Sunderbans with their parents to find honey.
Honey collectors have been venturing into the dense jungles of the Sunderbans for ages, trying to eke out a living by collecting whatever little honey they can. It is an extremely risky job, as they are under constant threat of being attacked by the Royal Bengal Tiger, the undisputed King of the Sunderbans.
However, thanks to a campaign by Save the Children, which was launched on Thursday with the hashtag #TheInvisibles to mark the International Day for Street Children, these children are slowly starting to dream.
As reported in The Telegraph, until a few months ago, Priyanka Khatoon and Mohammed Ahmed, both 12, had lost all hope of returning to books after forced to drop out of school by poverty and ignorance, thrice.
However, thanks to the campaign, she has gone back to school and dreams of studying medicine and becoming a doctor. She wants to study medicine, and be a doctor. Mohammed Ahmed, who used to sell toffees on local trains and accompany his father to the Sunderbans, has begun studying as well and dreams of becoming a cop.
An NGO worker said these children are virtually invisible, being devoid of ID proof, permanent address or a birth certificate and stricken by poverty. The community these children belong to keeps moving, which is why the children do not stick in school.
The campaign aims to help “invisible” kids get a feel of books and school life. The children were first drawn to schooling because of the mobile vans, which are stacked with books, pictures and games, that visit the locality once every week since 2011. Two of these vans are owned by Save the Children and cover more than 23 places, including Mullickpara in Ward 58, Telenga Bagan and Ultadanga.
While initially, barely a couple of kids came on board, the vans now host more than 20 kids, and most of them have been re-admitted to schools.
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According to a survey by Save The Children, two million children are living on the streets of India, and 63 percent of them cannot read and write. Fortunately, this initiative is helping these children drop employment and pick up books. India has frightening statistics of child labour, so every child that picks up a book in any corner of the nation is a victory of sorts.