We recruited a boy, just 15 years then.
He should be in the playground or school.
Isn’t he child labor?
Four years back, he walked in with his elder sister and asked for work.
Our first question was, what could be done to make him join back to school. He dropped out of school three years back & worked at India’s knitwear hub, Tirupur. Technically he started his first job when he was 12. His single mother’s woes, unsupportive school system & opportunities for work have together pulled him out of school. On interaction it was clear, he wouldn’t survive any more of school.
Life has to take him over & he was ready to be there!
That was the first timeweI went back, read & checked with experts on the minimum age for employment. It said 14 years is the minimum age to get into low-risk, safe employment.
We decided to work with him. We failed to provide him with any formal educational support. We could only be his supportive brother & be his community. Move him from abuse to respect. Help him get some skills & salary.
He is a very dependable tailor & printer now. He isn’t healed yet. He still is that rough boy who doesn’t know how to communicate with strangers. We could see the demerits of the lack of schooling. We could also see the benefits of creating a place that respects individuals.
Today there are more such boys & girls around in India. Willing to (if not already) drop out of school due to Pandemic’s economic impact & lack of educational support. We have already started getting requests for employment from few 10th-grade dropouts. We haven’t acted on it. Skills or mandatory education? How to blend both; How can a small organization take up this responsibility?
There is no victory. There is only a journey.
Nov 2022 Update: He passed his 8th grade exam this year, have bought his own bike and is now a man of respect in his community.
-This post was originally published in our co-founder Krishnan’s LinkedIn page