Staff of the Social Development Education Trust support many children in school in the poor communities in the Taluk of Srivilliputhur where they work. Child Labour is one of the biggest, and most insidious, hurdles for them to overcome; families are so poor they cannot see their way to providing the next meal for the whole family. Children as young as 5 and 6 often find themselves having to stop school to go out into the fields for a day’s work, or to serve in a gas station or spend a week cleaning tables in a restaurant to help the family, only to find they can’t keep up when they go back to class, and the slippery slope to child labour is established. The social workers that form the SDET Child Labour Prevention team can relate many stories of situations in which they have intervened – almost always successfully in ensuring children go to school and families find ways of supporting their regular attendance. But child labour is not a simple problem and kidnapping children for transporting to other states for work is common.
This is Gopal’s story:
Gopal’s parents were approached by a broker who said that if Gopal came with him he would get him a good job in a nearby town and he would be able to earn money for the family. The broker offered an advance on Gopal’s earnings which convinced Gopal’s parents that this was genuine, and as they were desperate for money they allowed Gopal to be taken away. However soon after the parents lost contact with Gopal and became distraught. They contacted SDET and staff immediately informed the police who traced Gopal to Andhra Pradesh – one of many children taken to work in the cotton plantations and successfully returned Gopal to his parents. Now the family liaise regularly with SDET staff who make sure that they have learned of the predatory adults who seek children to exploit them, and that naivety will make their children doubly vulnerable. Gopal now is back in school and his parents are being helped to raise income through the SDET small income generation scheme.