Rajender is a school teacher at the primary school in one of the hamlets surrounding Budhpura. Almost 30 children in class are paying great attention to what he writes on the school board. “So much has happened here over the past few years”, he says, “around four years ago almost no child came to school”. The most important reasons? Parent’s lack of awareness about the importance of education and the lack of good quality schools.
Local ngo Manjari went into the hamlets to reach out to parents and to improve the access to education and its quality. With success: nowadays 90% of children from this hamlet goes to school and the schools have improved facilities. “A good education means a chance of getting a better job and consequently a better future for these children”, says Rajender, “that’s well worth committing myself to”.
Sanjay stands out in his classroom: not just because he is one of the tallest children, but also because he is very motivated. Not so long ago, his life was completely different: Sanjay worked in the stone quarry from when he was 9 years old until he was 12. He made cobblestones for the European market. Until his employer decided, one year ago, that it was enough.
“He told me that I could no longer work for him. We went to school together and he enrolled me,” says Sanjay.
Ever since 2013, the local NGO Majari has been working to convince the entire community that children should be at school and not at work. “It is really great that even employers are taking their responsibility now,” says Bajrang, a very proactive member of Manjari. Sanjay is doing his very best to catch up at school with all the years he missed out on.
What would he like to be when he grows up? “A teacher!” he beams.
“Every child should be in school’ This is the fundamental principle of Child Labour Free Zones. To achieve this goal though, a holistic approach is required that looks at the bigger picture as to why children in Budhpura end up working in cobble yards. That’s why the Manjari team also supports young adults to achieve vocational training. This helps them to earn a decent income, so that their younger brothers and sisters can focus on their education.
Netu and Hamleta are 19 years old and both dropped out of school many years ago. They are no longer of a school going age, but they are part of a Manjari skill building/training programme to teach young women stitching skills.
Walking through the CLFZ project in Patiyal Hamlet of Budhpura , there is a good chance that you will come across a local boy called Shankar. You will not only see him in real life, but also on the posters and leaflets throughout the village. As the first child to attend school in his neighbourhood 11 year old Shankar has become the brand ambassador for the CLFZ project. Many others have since been motivated and inspired to follow his lead. Even though he is only 11 years old, Shankar already has a clear goal in life. He wants to become a teacher!
On the 27th of May, Manjari, with support of the State Forum on Natural Stone, Government of Rajasthan, Labour Department and Medical Department, has organised a mass health camp to raise awareness on silicosis among workers in the sandstone industry and screen workers on the occupational disease. Silicosis is an incurable occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust. Out of the 82 workers that were screened 7 silicosis and 10 tuberculosis patients were detected. Furthermore, more than 500 sandstone workers were registered under the Construction Workers Welfare Scheme. Under this scheme worker are entitled to nine social security benefits, including compensation when affected by an occupational disease.