Children have no limits to their dreams, and no barriers or restrictions in their minds. These five kids, emboldened by their education, show that sometimes the biggest lessons can come from the youngest people.
We often talk about how children can do wonders when we focus on their strength. We talk about how far they can go to fulfill their dreams when we invest in them, and when they are given enough opportunities to grow and achieve. Here are five champions who chose to prove the point.
Saying ‘No’ To Child Marriage
She took a big decision at the tender age of 12, when one usually graduates to middle school from the primary section. The moment the decision was taken, it took her all the courage she had to stick to it. Five years later, Sangeeta Kumari has come a long way – from expecting to be married off at that age to wanting to become an Army Officer and serve the country! Now a student of Class IX, and one of the active members of a Children’s Group at Khalispur village in Munger, Sangeeta is preparing to sit for her final annual exam next year.
“I know that I will make it to the Army someday, but I will also continue to do my bit to ensure that no child in my village falls victim to child marriage,” says Sangeeta, her voice echoing maturity and confidence.
From The Power Tiller To Textbooks
The entire village of Damodarpur Mohuli in the district of Samastipur now know the 15-year-old boy as a fierce crusader against child labour. A boy of lanky build and with a pair of bright, intelligent eyes, Siddhant does not rest until he has tried every possible way to take his peers back to school, just in case they drop out on account of child labour. “I chase them to school every day, because I know the difference it can make,” Siddhant says.
Five years ago, this young boy used to spend all his days working as a daily-wage labourer in the fields with his father. But that all changed when he was spotted by the workers of a local NGO, and admitted to school. Since then there has been no looking back.
“Us din mereko pata chala ki agar hum padhenge toh badhenge (that day I realised that it’s only through education we can go forward),” Siddhant says.
Dancing Through Dark Times
“My mother often tells me it is stupid and unrealistic to dream to be an actor when you come from a basti like ours. But I don’t think she gets it. I can show you. I can act like Katrina if you want me to,” Purnima says and very animatedly acts out a scene. Boy, is she good at it! “I love being on stage. It gives me a lot of confidence and makes me happy. I can’t wait to grow up and get into an acting school. But before that I want to complete my education,” says Purnima, the 11-year-old drama queen from Shaahbad, Delhi.
11-year-old Purnima is academically bright, good at painting, and in love with acting. Armed with will power, determination, and a headstrong nature, Purnima Kanojiya is no ordinary 6th grader. Amidst household chores and caring for her younger brother, she makes time for painting, theatre and academics.
Re-looking at Life, through a Positive Lens
Md. Adil (name changed) dropped out of school as a teenager owing to the kind of friends he had made. He had developed drug and alcohol addictions, and started stealing to meet his desperate needs. Two volunteers in Kolkata persevered tirelessly and counselled him continuously, winning his trust and making him realise the importance of education.
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At the age of 17, he re-enrolled in school. Today, he has been clean for the past three months, and also extremely regular at school. His academic record has been improving by leaps and bounds every day. Adil has become an inspiration for many of his friends to follow his route.
“I make sure I talk to my peers about the bitter experiences I had when I dropped out and became an addict. I had become distant from my family and become a bad example. Today, I have become a good example again and I like it much better,” says Adil.
This teenager has shown exemplary determination in overcoming his addiction and taking a new turn in life. He now wants to become an inspiration to the children around him.
“I love my school. For us, school meant learning, playing, and enjoying my childhood. Suddenly, there were no classes after 7th grade, and my friends and I were asked by our parents to get ready for marriage,” says Rekha, as she narrates how the non-availability of high school in her village nearly ended her childhood abruptly, in quite a literal sense.
The nearest high school was almost 10-11 kilometers away. But marriage was definitely not on her mind. She and her friends found strength in their children’s collective and decided to approach school authorities and demand for the upgrade of their school beyond Standard VIII “Today we are back in school and we have great dreams for our future. I want to study further and not become a child bride,” says a visibly beaming Rekha, with twinkles in her eyes.
Summing up these stories and highlighting how education can be the key trigger in igniting the journey towards a positive change, Komal Ganotra, Director, Policy Research and Advocacy, CRY – Child Rights and You, says,
“Thousands of children in India lack access to education and can’t even write their own names. Moreover, children between the ages of 11 to 14 are hugely vulnerable to dropping out of schools. When a child is able to go to school, it sets off a cycle of positive change. An educated child stays away from an early marriage and is empowered to stand up against exploitation. As children grow, they are able to make better choices for themselves and influence the communities they live in. This transforms their present life and ensures a secure future for them.”
CRY volunteers are diverse: age-wise, background-wise, and interest- and skill-wise. That diversity adds depth and reach to our efforts and impact. They are our everyday heroes! Join us.