“I am very happy being back at school,” said Babu, 12, sharing his story all the way from the Koderma district, in the Jharkhand state of India.
Babu is now studying in the 6th grade in a public school. He was re-enrolled into school after spending 6 months working in a mine. It was not just any mine, but a mica mine.
Mica is a mineral that is primarily used in automotive paint and cosmetic products. An estimated 20,000 children work in the micamines in the Jharkhand and Bihar states of India. These regions produce approximately one-quarter of the world’s total mica production. In many cases, children are forced into working in these areas because of sheer poverty.
Babu’s family, which only has four members, at times could not afford to have two meals a day. Even worse, his father became ill and the family fell into debt by paying the medical bills. They had to pay about €40 per month including interest to the loan shark.
The family’s economic crisis left Babu without a choice: he had to drop out of school and move to stay with his maternal aunt. It was not a free-of- charge stay. He had to work as a child labourer in the MICA mine, where he was constantly exposed to life-threatening dangers such as the collapse of the mine and lung disease caused by breathing in dust. The 12-year-old said:
When the heavy rain came, there were several incidences of landslides and I got bruised all over trying to escape.
At the age of 12, Babu wished for nothing more than having a simple childhood: going to school, having friends and dreaming big dreams. But in reality, life was harsh on Babu. After hearing about his story, Terre des Hommes and our local partner did not sit still and look the other way.
Our partner in India, the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation (KSCF), sent a social worker to meet Babu and visit his parents. His parents were not convinced that continuing his education was the solution to their financial problems, and they wanted Babu to continue to work in the
When he saw how reluctant Babu’s parents were, the social worker invited teachers from the state school and local authorities to consult with them. The school teachers offered to make sure that Babu’s basic needs in education would be taken care of and that they would pay close attention to him to make sure he would attend all the lessons. Finally, Babu’s parents said yes.
Terre des Hommes works in partnership with local organisations in India to ensure children like Babu have access to education as a basic right. We also mobilise key players in the community such as local authorities, schools and civil society respectively, to come together and support those families in need.
For the first time in many years, Babu and his parents feel hopeful about their future again. Investing in education for children might not be an immediate solution, but it is a bridge built over time to reach a better life in the future. It is a long and fierce fight, but Terre des Hommes and our partners will stand by them.