I want to be a police officer when I grow up.”
Knight in shining armour
11-year old Murugan belongs to a socially excluded community in Kurumalai village of Coimbatore District in Tamil Nadu. His mother suffers from psychological problems and rarely stays at home. His father, a daily wage labourer, was forced to send his children out for work to get an additional income to run his family.
My father was the only earning member in our family and most of what he earned went towards paying for his alcohol. So we had to support to increase our family income. My elder brother and I collect wood from the forest earn INR 10 per day”.
Every year, when their father migrated to villages around Coimbatore to earn, the boys had to accompany him to work. Murugan had never been to a school and it didn’t seem like there was any chance that he would, as he was exploited to be a labourer at a very early age.
When representatives of the child labour elimination programme of Hand in Hand India came across Murugan picking wood in a forest and interacted with him to gather more information on his background and why he had not attended school, they realised what a bright child he was! The team spoke at length to him on the importance of education and about the facilities provided in Hand in Hand India’s Residential Special Training Centres (RSTC), residential schools that train drop-out children, migrants, child labourers, never enrolled and irregular school going children to catch up on their lost education and prepare them for a fulltime formal education system. Children thus mentored are then mainstreamed into regular schools.
Sensing Murugan’s intelligence and his keen interest to study, staff members and Child Rights Protection Committee volunteers reached out to Murugan’s father and sensitised him on the importance of education as well as the advantages and facilities in the RSTC to help Murugan study and become successful. After months of continuous follow-up, the family agreed to enroll Murugan in the RSTC at Udumalpet near Coimbatore.
Today, Murugan is not only catching up with his studies at the RSTC, but has also regained his lost childhood! Now in 4th grade, he is an avid football fan and dreams of becoming a police officer to help and serve his community.