Barriers to Education gravitating to Child Labour by Sakya Mukherjee

In recent times, education is considered as a basic human right and it is expected that each and every
human being is provided with formal education but even today we find that there are many cases of
illiteracy and students dropping out of schools due to financial and other problems in their daily life and
that it is still better to say that education is a luxury for few if not for all. Before jumping into
unnecessary conclusions that all the cases of the lack of proper education is related to them being
financially incapable, it is better that we consider other factors such as gender bias, stereotypical
thoughts regarding educating oneself and many more. When we look around our immediate
the neighbourhood we realise that there are people who provide us with daily services about whom we
know practically nothing and when we attempt to do so we realise that they provide us with details of
their family and how they spent their daily life but ironically never about themselves or from where did
they start their journey of working as basic service providers. In this article, an attempt has been made
to delve deeper into the lives of these people who work silently and to know more about their
development as a person over the years of their life, whether they really chose to work the way they are
doing it every single day or it was a result of their lack of education and self-development that left them
with no choice whatsoever.
Case 1
It has been a part of our lives seeing Soma Majhi, aged 47 selling fish and with a different Bengali accent
than mine, I have always wondered what was her origin and how did she manage to be in this business
for so long . Finally, I went up to her and asked her for giving me a little time from her busy schedule so
that I can know more about her, she usually wraps up her things within 11 in the morning and it has
always amazed me as to how does she manage to sell all the fishes that she brings within a few hours.
After she was done, I asked her about her life and would she like to share about it, and to my utter
delight she agreed. As she went on narrating, I felt privileged enough to know this side of the
universe with so close precision, she was introduced to basic speech alphabets by her mother but was
never given a formal education. Coming from the interiors of Khulna, she never really got an opportunity
to convince her parents for her education and neither did she feel the need and urgency of it until she
had to step out for work. She was 15 when she was married off to a man who was twelve years elder to
her and she soon realised that he had no such incentive to work and if he did work, the money that he
got was all spent in providing himself with all the necessary supplements required to intoxicate himself
and go off to slumber. After having three kids and she realising that it was high time she starts earning
that it struck her that education would have provided her with better opportunities rather than being
a fish seller where she had to travel a journey of total 6 hours of her day and the rest being spent in
selling the items that she has to procure from the main distributor around 4 am in the morning. To her
education would have been a method to bring her life to a track and life a better life compared to what
she has been living. Owing to Governmental policies, and being a citizen belonging to the category of
BPL, she gets ration at a mere amount of rupee one and that is the service that she is eternally thankful
for. While parting from her, the last words that she said to me, “You girls are like daughters to me, when you study it feels that we are studying and doing something with our lives. It felt so good talking to you.” [translated in english] Case 2
Shyamol Bagchi, age around 58 ,is a security guard in my area. He is always cordial and friendly
whenever he is approached and it was personally a pleasure to talk and know more about him.
Education was indeed something that made him laugh when I asked about it. He skeptically remarked
that it was possibly the last thing that he could think of considering the life that he led. His parents were
refugees from Bangladesh and after they came here it was a tough run for them to get a place to settle.
He was born in the districts of Midnapore and they could only afford a meal for a particular time of the
day. His father was a farmer but hardly could bring back anything due to the oppression of their
landowner. He started working from the ripe age of 15 when he slowly started assisting his father and
then finally coming to Kolkata after his father’s death. He had toiled hard for years working in hotels
where he used to mop floors but that provided him a basic living for himself. When I curiously asked him
about his married life, he simply smiled and said that he realized it quite early that he was unable to
feed himself properly so he did not indulge himself in getting married because he can’t provide food
for another person. Indeed education would have given him a more peaceful life rather than being alone
in an age where he has no one to look after him. In a mere salary of 8000 a month he is living his life in
isolation but with a wide smile on his face.
Case 3
Shubhodeep Noshkor, aged 29, is the only son of his house and education is not something that he is
familiar with. He is a sweeper in the Municipal Corporation and is often found on roads doing his duty
diligently. The only “problem” about him is his disability as he lacks a leg and that makes his work all the
more difficult. Naturally, in a situation where he needs the money more than anything and has to work even
when it is quite difficult for him, my question of not acquiring an education made him laugh. He was
admitted to a school and he had studied there up to standard 5 but it was the place of horror and shame
for him because he was not like other kids. He was treated differently, often bullied, and made to realise
his incapabilities but he had no other option. He was from an extremely poor family and in his village,
there was no separate arrangements made for the specially-abled children and therefore he had to
adjust in the same school with others. After a point, his parents could not afford his education or rather
did not want to waste their hard-earned money on a son who was ‘not normal’ .The local panchayat was
of no help to them and with a lot of difficulties, he finally moved to the city and secured a job that could
arrange for his daily meals and a certain amount of money that he sends back to his home in Dumka.
Lastly,he cheerfully told me that he plans to get married and have his own family someday and it was a
pleasure for me to know his life a little more.
Case 4
“Ice- cream dadu” as we all lovingly call him in our locality is a man who had been selling ice-cream for
the past 45 years of his life. currently, his age would be around 74 but yet he still is keen on selling for
his own livelihood. In his younger days, education was not something that was a human right but a privilege that only the upper caste people of the society would enjoy but his story is kind of being a
rebel to that system. He never got access to a school but that did not stop him from acquiring
knowledge and he credits that to a friend of his who is now no more. His friend used to go to a local
school and learn things which he further taught to dadu so that even he can know about the world.
Dadu got married when he was just 18 and had two daughters but he being a rebel did not marry them
off early but instead gave them education till matriculation and then owing to the customs of the time
finally married them off. His daughters work in an NGO where they help students who are disabled and
Dadu makes ice cream along with his dear wife and sells it every afternoon. His voice is enough to
attract children from everywhere in order to buy the products. It is not always that we get to see a man
of this age being so desperate and clear in his visions and he is undoubtedly an inspiration to many of us.
Case 5
Lastly, coming back to my own house where Meenadi who does our cleaning was very eager to be a
part of this article and said, “ask me questions and I will tell them truthfully, I promise. Nobody asks me about my life.”[translated in english] Her story takes us back to the age old debate of should girls be educated and being a first-hand victim of
this, she was really keen on sharing her story where her parents and especially her father did not like her
and to this extent that he wanted to kill her when she was not getting a groom due to her dark
complexion. Education was not something that these girls deserved according to the rule makers of their
time. After a loathsome amount of dowry giving ritual, she was married off and soon became a victim of
domestic abuse but still lived in that house for 15 years of her life when she had her son and daughter
and after a while when it became unbearable for her, she decides to leave her house. She somehow was
luckily spotted by an aid worker who decided to provide her shelter and initially gave her the work of
sewing clothes for the poor children that the NGO worked for. After which she took jobs in the household so
that she could earn more and feed her children while keeping in mind that her children are educated in
a good school. the sentence that struck me in this whole conversation was,
“I will make my children study so that they are not beaten and can earn money with
respect.”[translated in english].
In all of these cases, it is the lack of awareness, opportunities and resources that came as a barrier in
their education, and as citizens of a country which is aiming towards education for all, we should try and
promote more so that the people who lack the basic necessities in acquiring an education should be
looked after by the government. We have the Beti bachao beti padhao movement and Kanyashree in
Bengal which enables education for the girls who are unable to secure one. Many more such projects
should be undertaken by the Government and spread awareness so that every village is provided with a
local school and each children is provided with a proper education facility to secure their future.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.