We Can Win

We Can Win

Publication info

Mamta Behera, CARE India

Manjura and Mansura sisters -- 7 and 8 years old, respectively -- who live in the Shastri Park slum of Delhi, India. The slum is located near the railway line and their cottage is right alongside a train track where many children have died or been injured. Their vulnerabilities are further exacerbated by the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, unavailability of electricity and poor educational facilities in the area.

One morning in Shastri Park, when all the school children dressed in their uniforms were waiting for school bus to pick them up, Manjura and Mansura stood looking at them from a corner. They carried dirty plastic bags full of garbage, hanging from their shoulders down to their knees, because they worked as rag pickers Instead of going to school, they were sorting through rubbish. And so the sisters stare at the green and white uniforms, perhaps comparing their discoloured frocks with the clean, crisp outfits -- school uniforms. They also noticed the notebooks and pencils in the hands of school-going children rather than the plastic bags filled with garbage.

When the school bus left, the two girls turned back to their work collecting trash and putting it into the plastic bags. However, they noticed a man standing on the opposite side of the road, closely watching them. As they reached their home, they discovered he was approaching them.

The man introduced himself to the family. He was an outreach worker with CARE’s EMPHASIS program, which works in the area with Bengali-speaking migrants. Though Manjura and Mansura were interested in going to school, the parents were reluctant, because they were making additional income by having their daughters work as rag pickers. The parents thought that girls need not go to school, since they have to get married at the age of 15 or 16.  They were also not aware about the free education system in government schools.

Another big challenge for them was that their mother tongue was Bengali and not Hindi. In addition, the family didn’t have any identity proof or proof of residence, which is required for being admitted into government schools.

The CARE team member listened to their problems and came up with a solution. The children were immediately linked up with the non-formal educational center in the area. Along with basic education, the sisters were taught health and hygiene, as well as other topics that are useful in their day-to-day lives. The teacher spoke Bengali, so it wasn’t a problem for her to understand the children and enable them to study successfully.

After faciliating this change, the CARE team member met the nearest government primary school principal. He discussed the admission of Manjura and Mansura. The school principal initially said no – but the CARE staff member didn’t give up. He kept advocating  with the school principal and finally made it possible to enroll the children in school.

The school principal made a condition for admission that the children have to qualify through an eligibility test. Both sisters passed the exam and were enrolled in first grade; soon after, they graduated to second grade. They are doing quite well in their studies and also participate in various extracurricular activities and events like singing, dancing and quiz contests organized by the school.

CARE’s efforts made the way easier for these children to go to school. Today, Manjura and Mansura are no longer rag pickers; instead, every morning, they dress up proudly in their green and white school uniforms, as they had so longed to do earlier. They carry their pencils and notebooks in their school bags and wait for the school bus with the other children.

After observing various positive changes in their children, the sisters’ parents are happy now. They say, “Our children would have remained illiterate if CARE wasn’t there. CARE was the one that provided us the right opportunity for our children to lead a better life and have a brighter future. Now we really understand the value of education. It has the capability to bring an immense change in a person’s life. As parents, we want their lives to be better with education and request every parent to get their children educated without any hesitation.”