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For every pair you purchase, a child’s health is at stake

“My work usually involves sticking pieces of the shoe together with glue. The glue has a very strong smell that makes me dizzy and sick when I use it for too long. I can’t focus on work sometimes because of this, and the manager gets angry and shouts at me when I make mistakes. He scares me. I fear that my manager will get tired of scolding me and then fire me. How will I support my mother if I get fired?” says 12-year-old Rahul (name changed).

According to a survey, 35 million children in India aged 6-14 are not in school.

Where are they?

Working in hazardous industries or backbreaking jobs so they can be another earning hand to the struggling family.

Looking after younger siblings so parents can go for work and there is food on the table.

Simply at home, because education is a luxury!

Twelve-year-old Rahul lives in Agra.

At a tender age, Rahul had life’s challenges thrown at him. He lost his father to terminal illness and since then he had to work to meet the needs of his family. “I liked going to school and if I had a choice I would rather go back to school and learn than work” says Rahul. “Learning was fun and I also had all my friends to play with. It makes me sad to work.” says Rahul recalling his former days when he enjoyed his time with friends at school.

“Ever since my father passed away I’ve started to work. We had to sell our home to pay for his treatment and whatever was left, we used for my sister’s wedding. Unfortunately his illness returned and by then we had no more money left to pay for his treatment,” says Rahul.

Rahul works in a nearby footwear factory for 8-9 hours every day depending on the amount of work. He earns Rs. 100 to 200 a week. Similar to many others like it, the factory has been set up in a residential home to avoid scrutiny from officials.

His daily routine starts with waking up by 7, having a bath and eating his food. Then he heads for work by 9 am. In the evening he finishes by 6 pm after which he goes for tuition. He comes home by 7:30 – 8:00, eats food and goes to sleep.

Even though Rahul doesn’t handle the heavy machinery there, he still faces other work hazards.

The organic solvents present in the adhesives and glue contain neurotoxins. They can alter the normal activity of the nervous system in such a way as to cause damage to the nervous tissue of the child.

“Some children suffer from tuberculosis due to working in closed environments and inhaling toxic fumes” says a World Vision India staff.

“I miss my father. He would always take such good care of us, and my only task was to go to school every day, which I liked. Life is hard with him gone but I don’t have a choice. I have to help look after both my mother and myself now” says Rahul.

“My mother also works as a nanny for a family nearby, but we still struggle with our expenses,” he continues.

“If I don’t work we’ll face many problems. The most important being, we won’t be able to pay the rent for the room and we will also not be able to pay for household expenses like food” remarks Rahul.

Rahul and his mother now rent a single room, which serves as their bedroom, kitchen and store as well. They share a common toilet with the other tenants. Rahul is just one among the millions of children in India, who are forced to work as a child, so that they can provide for the family. According to UNICEF, there are approximately 10.2 million children working in India.

Through remedial education classes, economic development assistance and counselling support, World Vision India works among these children, ensuring that they get back their fair chance to life.

“World Vision India helps me to continue studying by giving me an opportunity to learn at their Remedial Education Centre, where I go for tuition every evening. I’ll always be grateful to them. Hopefully I can complete my education one day and fulfil my dream to become a soldier” says Rahul.

The Remedial Education Centres started by World Vision India teach basic literacy and numeracy skills to children who are unable to read, write and do basic math. This is particularly to ensure that children of higher primary classes (4th and 5th) have strong basic foundations, which impact all future learning. Hindi and Mathematics are being taught. There are 30 children in the centre that Rahul goes to and 3900 children attend centres across Agra.

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