Courage above all is the first quality of a warrior.” – Carl Von Clausewitz

The state of affairs at Rekha’s home is not good. Her father is an alcoholic and mother helps him raising livestock and milk distribution. Her father usually spends almost all his earnings on drinks and then beats up anyone in the family for no reason. The violence is very brutish, and not to be in front of his eyes is the only escape!

Rekha shares that it’s been very rare that my father has taken care of the financial needs. Rekha works as a day labour on holidays to meet her own expenses. Her father threatened her numerous times to give up education and compelled her to stop going to school. Yet, Rekha never acceded to his demands. Once he had beaten her so much on her knees that she was not able to walk. It was the first time that she missed school for a week. She even called ChildLine to go to a safer place and continue her studies, but her father made her brother go to the hostel instead. Despite all that, she never lost her determination and interest in studies.

“I am continuously attending meetings for adolescent girls which happens every week. Those have really helped me overcome my hesitation to express myself, and has given me inner strength and courage to fight injustice. Our teacher Pushpanjali encouraged us to get our drop-out friends to school, saying we are the best people to do that and gave us this challenge in the form of a project”.

After school, Rekha visits the drop-out girls’ houses. She interacts with the families and tries to understand the reason for the dropouts. She shared that some parents think that their children are very dull, and there is no use of them going to school. Rekha also shared that most of the drop-out girls used to come to school just to avail the Government benefits like free books, shoes, bags, uniforms, bicycles, and scholarships. After receiving those facilities, they would stop going to school again. Thus, they would be unable to catch up with the syllabus making them stop attending the school. The parents of two girls said that they will withdraw their daughters from school if the girls don’t improve. This made Rekha take it up as a challenge. Now she works with the girls after school and helps them improve. She shares with a broad smile- “I am happy that my friends’ parents trusted me. I am also happy that my friends’ reading and writing skills have considerably improved”.

According to Rekha, the root cause of children dropping out of school is the Coca-Cola factory and poultry farm situated nearby, because they also employ children as day labourers. She once decided to put a stop to the child labour so that children can start attending school again. But, when she reached the poultry farm with the headmaster, school teacher and ChildLine officials, they realized that someone had already informed them and the children had escaped. She is now trying to gather evidence by recording the daily commute of the children with adults to the nearby industries, basically to create fear among them so that they stop working as labourers and continue their education.

We wish her all the best to get her friends back to school and salute her courageous spirit.

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