One fine afternoon I was teaching English in my amazing class at the village flour mill and thinking about the teen who few months back told me “I have stopped dreaming…”
As an SBI Youth for India Fellow, I selected Sanitation and Hygiene as my programme area. I am working in Husenabad, a large village in the Saurastra region of Gujarat. In this village around 40 % household does not have access to proper sanitation facilities, some households want to build toilets in their homes, but they don’t have sufficient space for toilet construction. So, I took the responsibility of creating awareness among the villagers about the benefits of better sanitation and hygiene practices and building a low cost portable toilet.
During a school awareness campaign, I realized that the students lack the basic knowledge of English. I decided to teach English in the schools and alongside creating awareness among students about good sanitation and hygiene practices. I thought it’s the best way to reach the community. Luckily, I got the permission to start special English classes form the principal of both the village schools. After a few weeks the AKRSP(I) resource person of the village Iqbalbhai informed me that my teaching initiative is appreciated by the community. He also told me about a school dropout kid who works at the village flour mill and knows best English in the village.
Next day, I met him at his flour mill. He was entirely covered in wheat flour dust. How are you? I asked him. He replied “I am fine” with a smile on his face. I further asked him. “I heard that you are a brilliant student, why are you not going to school..?” He responded while changing the container in front of the grinding machine. “I have stopped dreaming… I can’t go to school. I can’t afford to quit my job for studies. I am the only bread earner of my family. I don’t have any other option apart from working in this mill for the rest of my life.” He continued his story of his struggles, responsibilities & commitments and I was quietly listening to him. His story really touched my heart. I couldn’t sleep well that night thinking about the teenager.
His name is Afrid, a 15 year old boy. He lives in a tiny rented house in the village with his mother and two younger sisters. Likewise, other kids in the village, he does not go to school, doesn’t play cricket & other games. He works at the flour mill every day from 7am to 10 pm. He discontinued his studies after his father passed away about two years ago. Earlier at school, Afrid was a brilliant student and the topper of his class. He was the favourite student of teachers. He sometimes even used to teach his junior classes in the absence of teachers. Unfortunately, everything changed for him after his father’s death.
I make up my mind to do something to save the future of this brilliant kid. I ask him “would you like to continue your studies..?” with radiance in his eyes, he replied “Yes, but every day I can’t go to school. Can I study from my home?” I told him “I have to ask the principal for that”. Following day, I met the principal of the village primary school. I requested him for Afrid’s admission in the school and informed him that he won’t be able to regularly attend the classes due to his family conditions. He will study from home and I will take extra classes for him. The principal readily agreed and he got admission in the school.
Afrid is now returned to his Dreamland. Once again Afrid is studying. He keeps his all his books on a small shelf in his flour mill. Whenever he gets free time from his work he took out his books and studies. His friends provide him the textbooks and other study materials and I am also teaching Afrid at my amazing classroom in the village flour mill…
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