From school to work in Sidhi

Print edition : October 08, 2021

Thirteen-year-old Preeti has missed school for nearly two years now.

June to August is a time of intensive farm work in Madhya Pradesh, when the kharif crops are being sown and grown. In Bahari and Gajraha, two small villages of Sidhi district, many children were busy in the fields at the time of the SCHOOL survey. It is not unusual for them to work alongside their parents in the family fields, but this time, some were also working as paid labourers in other people’s fields, earning about Rs.150 a day on average.

In Bahari, 13-year-old Preeti has missed school for nearly two years now. Before the lockout, she used to study in a government school. Today, she hardly has any time for herself. Aside from household work, she has started working as a farm labourer. During the kharif season, she earned Rs.1,500 by transplanting paddy for 7-8 days in the field of an upper-caste landowner. She did this to support her family, and because she did not have to go to school.

The lockout also means more household work for Preeti. In the morning, she helps her mother with domestic work, and later on, she works in the family fields or as a wage labourer. Online education is a distant dream for her: neither does her family own a smartphone, nor is her school conducting online classes. Preeti has not opened her school books in the last year and a half.

Twelve-year-old Gunjan, daughter of a migrant worker from Gajraha, also worked in other people’s fields for a week, for Rs.150 a day. Her family owns two smartphones, but her school has not conducted any online classes and neither has any help been provided to her by the teachers.

Shak Vati Singh, a mother of two in Bahari, is very worried about her daughter. Her husband, a migrant worker, has visited the family just once in the last three years and does not send any money. She manages everything with the help of her parents. She remarked, “Bache jo padhte the wo bhi bhul gaye hai” (children have forgotten what they had learnt). She has put her daughter in a private school and struggles to pay the monthly fees of Rs.250. During the lockout, she taught her daughter on her own.

 

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