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Education • India • 2023
“There is nothing safe about my community. We’re always fearing some kind of mishappening. Recently, child kidnappers are walking in our community so we feel very unsafe. Boys also form groups and eve tease the girls – it’s hard for us to leave the house.” Jamila

For Jamila, home is a temporary shelter made of tarpaulin, bricks and wood. She, her parents and her three siblings moved to Delhi several years ago from the West Bengal in search of better job opportunities for her parents to support the family. Now 11 years old, Jamila’s life is still difficult at times, but she has hope for her future since starting to attend a project run by CHETNA, Toybox’s partner in India. Here she shares how her life is changing.

“When we came here from our village, we had no home to live in so we had to stay on the railway tracks, wandering from one place to another, never having anything to eat and for a long time, me and my family did ragpicking to survive. Our biggest challenge was finding a place to live and food to eat because we didn’t have money to fulfil our basic needs so it was a challenging task for us all to survive. Now, my parents earn just over 7,000 rupees (approximately £70) a month but it’s not enough for all of us to live well. Sometimes me and my brother go out with our mother to do ragpicking, but we don’t earn a lot. We lived like this for about five years when we arrived."

“One day, I heard about CHETNA and the educator told me that they provide free non-formal education sessions for children like me, as well as support for admission to school, food and sessions about child rights – I was so eager to join the project.” Jamila

Jamila soon started attending CHETNA activities and they started to help her with the process to get enrolled in school. However, because she was on the enrolment list for children who had never been to school, the school required proof of an open bank account before they could enrol her. Despite CHETNA’s support though, the staff at the bank were unhelpful and Jamila faced the prejudices encountered by many people like her in India. Bank staff dismissed her, saying “You are not educated, so instead of signing you will put a thumb impression… but you people should learn to do the basics.” It was hurtful and because of a change in family circumstances, the final paperwork to open the bank account never got done, meaning that Jamila’s hopes of enrolling in school are still for the future. Despite this, she enjoys attending the project.

“Now, I get free meals, regular health checks, the opportunity to talk to the police, support group sessions with friends, life skills workshops and days out to see different places. CHETNA support us in getting our Aadhar (ID) cards, opening bank accounts and starting school. I’ve also learned about child rights and how to raise child safeguarding issues by using the child helpline number.

I’ve also learned how to read and write. Before, I was unable to read and right but now I can express my thoughts and feelings. I also learned about basic hygiene and wear neat and clean clothes every day. My favourite activities are the support group meetings where I can talk in a group and we help each other find different solutions to our problems."

“Although I’m not in school now, if I’m successful one day, I’ll feel very happy. I imagine school is a place where all children learn manners and moral values, which they get the most important chance to fulfil their dreams and goals in their lives.” Jamila

"School is very important. It’s a basic foundation of knowledge being imparted on a child which gives them access to various fields of education.

Before coming to the project, I was very hopeless. My family survived only on daily wages so we couldn’t live happily. But now, coming to the CHETNA project has provided my with a way of living that can improve my life. It gives me the opportunity to study so I can be an army officer in the future. Before I was illiterate but now I can write Hindi and English.”

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