By Sourya Majumder:
Mamta wakes up at 6 a.m. every day. After completing household chores, she heads off to her General Duty Assistant (GDA) course, following which she goes to work as domestic help at two different houses. After returning home, she studies from 5 till 8 p.m. every day, and goes to sleep at 11.
Mamta’s story might, at first, sound like a depressingly familiar one. In a country where amendments to the Child Labour Act do more harm than good, and children are still widely hired as domestic help, the middle class is often desensitised to such stories. However, it’s essential to realise that these are stories of real people with real dreams and aspirations, and not give in to the all too pervasive malaise of apathy.
Born in Delhi, Mamta lost her father, a sanitation worker, while she was in Class 6. Her mother struggled to support their family of six as a domestic helper, and circumstances forced Mamta to pick up the same profession. “I took it as work that I am doing for earning only as I could not find anything better,” she says. She continued her studies alongside her work, and her life fell into a rigid and hectic pattern which demands complete focus. “I manage by allotting time to everything and then following the schedule with discipline. I do not have any time for entertainment.”
Through her own grit and determination, Mamta received something that not many people do – a second chance. Having heard of it from a friend, Mamta enrolled in the Tech Mahindra SMART Academy for Healthcare, which equips young men and women with the necessary skills to become qualified allied medical professionals. Now, although her routine still largely remains the same, Mamta sees a brighter future for herself. She describes her learning experience as “amazing”, and especially likes the emphasis on practical knowledge.
The experience seems to have instilled a certain conviction and hope in this young woman. “I am determined to have a successful career and a decent life. When I heard about the course I became hopeful and felt now I too can live a life of dignity,” says Mamta, who has also registered for graduation through correspondence upon completing her schooling. What’s most impressive though is that even with all the opportunities ahead of her, Mamta is extremely grounded, and thinks of her mother before herself. “I just wanted to help my mother financially and help her live a better life,” she says with conviction.
With over 34.5 million children covered by the Right to Education Act being out of school, Mamta’s life – and the story of how she turned it around – amply prove a point. According to a District Information on School Education (DISE) report, a total of 810,690 students dropped out of school during the academic year 2013-14, and it is essential that this substantial population of young people is reintroduced into the education system, and given a second chance to develop their skills, to break the cycle of poverty. India needs many more initiatives that provide accessible education to the youth, to help realise the vision of young people like Mamta, who makes an astute observation, “I think free education is the biggest opportunity that (young people) can get.”