- Jharkhand teen works on a construction site, clears Class 10
- Can afford to attend school only on alternate days
- Wants to go to college, hopes to someday be a cop
Ranchi: Meera Khoya, 16, has just cleared her Class 10 exams, scoring 54%. Teens her age may be relaxing now, glad to be done with the ordeal of board exams. Meera, however, counts 20 rupees carefully as she hires an auto. She is headed not to meet friends but to a construction site, where, for the next eight hours, she will carry bricks on her head to earn Rs 200 a day.
That’s not the most grueling part of her routine. Since she turned eight, Meera has woken up at 4.30 in her village near Ranchi, done household chores, and then, on alternate days, attended a small private school or worked as a daily wage earner. She then headed home to help her mother out in the kitchen before squeezing in two hours with her books before going to bed.
” I want to be a police officer”, says Meera, at the construction site, her head wrapped in a blue dupatta, a flimsy shield from the searing sun. Despite her tremendous accomplishment, reality holds her plans in check. ” I could be a doctor but I don’t have money, so I’ll be a cop.”
12 years ago, Meera’s father, a farmer, died. Her mother takes whatever work she can, sometimes selling a local brew. Meera contributes to the family income. Her younger sister, Anshu, has joined her at the construction site. Their brother, Aman, is giving football lessons locally to help pay for his college.
Some day, Meera says, she hopes to switch to a better, more expensive school, which will prep her better for her own college plans. But even in their teens, Meera and her siblings have learnt to curb ambition, to temper hope; nothing is more important than just getting by (to help the family, please scroll down for details).
The overwhelming poverty in Jharkhand, one of India’s most backward states, has driven a high school dropout rate, and child trafficking.
“It is indeed very challenging to work with such children . when you compare their need for even one meal a day to their desire to study , it is a challenge ” , says Aradhana Patnaik , in charge of Education in Jharkhand.
Meera’s summer vacation, such as it is, ends in June. Then, she says, she will get back to dividing her time between ferrying bricks on her head and being in class.
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