VELLORE: When S Dharani looks back at how her life was a decade ago, she still cannot believe that she not just got a formal schooling but also passed Class-XII with an impressive score of 378. Thinking back, all that the 19-year-old can recollect about her childhood is loud clatter of weaving looms.
Dharani was born into a family of weavers in Melakulampudur village. At the age of eight, she was pulled into the trade – rather, the labour. Luckily for her, a few months later, volunteers of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) came on a surprise check and rescued her.
They put her in a special school. “I never dreamt I would get admitted in a school.” Life was not easy even after being rescued. The odds were stacked up against Dharani. She managed to overcome all of them, and completed her schooling. Now, her ambition is to crack the civil service exams.
“Becoming a district collector is my ambition. But, I want to study computer science engineering in college.” SE Gokul was also rescued as a child labourer. Today, he aspires to become a space scientist after having scored 389 marks. He was working in a beedi-making unit till 2014 in Pernambut.
“I lost my father even before I learnt to walk. From the time I can remember I was working in a beedi unit. My mother and sister were staying under the care of my aunt,” says Gokul. “Around 19 children, who were rescued from child labour, appeared for Class XII board examination this year. Of them, 17 have passed,” says NCLP project director M Rajapandian. Big changes begin with small steps. Indeed, these 17 students could be the small steps towards a future free of child labour.