Shalini Munuswamy, who was rescued from bonded labour and given a chance to continue her education five years ago, has successfully graduated from high school and is all dreamy-eyed about going to college. The road ahead, however, isn’t that easy for her. Shalini, who wishes to pursue a BSc course and become a nurse, faces strong opposition at home. The youngest of four sisters, Shalini’s mother and three sisters want her to get married. For them, Class 12 is too much education for any woman of their community. But Shalini has, in protest, refused a marriage proposal and even gone without food to make her parents comply with her wish to study further.
According to a report by NDTV, Shalini was pulled out of school when she was in Class 6 to help her parents repay the loans taken for her sisters’ weddings. Working at Kasimedu harbour in Chennai, she earned up to Rs 100 for cleaning one basket of shrimp.
She was rescued by R Pramila, a teacher at Karunalaya, appointed under India’s National Child Labour policy five years ago.
Picture for representation only. Source: By GMR Akash [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo], via Wikimedia Commons
Today, Shalini willingly earns money for her family by working alongside her father at the harbour during the day and also works as a teacher in the evenings in the school she once studied in. A small portion of her meagre salary goes determinedly to the saving fund for her further education.
According to the report, Shalini said, “I want to do BSc, study nursing and become a good nurse. I have got a lot of respect and confidence after I finishing my Class 12. Education is very important.”
Shalini has also managed to gain the support of her father, who is now ready to let her pursue further education. “We don’t have any money for now. Next year, if she gets admission in a good college, we’ll send her,” says Munnuswamy V, Shalini’s father.
Shalini is the first teacher from her colony. For many girls who share a similar fate, Shalini is a source of inspiration. They have found a role model in her, someone who has taken matters into her own hands and chosen a new life for herself.
The report quotes Shalini’s 7-year-old student R Sanjana saying that she wants to study like her ‘Shalini madam’ and become an engineer. Now that’s really something, isn’t it?