It was around 10:30 in the night when this girl, around 14 or 15 years of age, came and stood next to me in a market place. She had a pen and a notebook in one hand and her little brother, in the other.
She told me how she didn’t like to beg but her mother forced her to do it every day. She asked if I could get her something to eat which she could take home for all her siblings. She had tables and alphabets written in her notebook. She doesn’t go to school.
There is someone who comes to a nearby Metro Station every day to teach her a few basics. She was upset because she couldn’t understand one of the tables. When I taught her the same, she grasped it within no time. Her mother doesn’t keep well as she just aborted a child, her father went to the village because someone in their family passed away and now he doesn’t have the money to return, and her eldest brother is a substance abuser who hardly comes home.
She shared how she told her parents that they keep giving birth to children, but have nothing to feed them. She kept repeating how she didn’t like to beg but had no other option. She feared that her mother would beat her on getting back home because she didn’t make enough money for the day.
She complained that her mother doesn’t allow her to join a school because then, there’d be no one to get money for the family and look after the younger kids. When I told her to make her mother understand how important it is for her to get educated and bring their family out of this state, she said she doesn’t agree.
She told me how she felt bad because she spent a day’s collection on buying her notebook and pen and that she can’t take it home because her mother would again beat her for wasting money on it.
All this could seem like a very perfectly woven, believable story because when she saw how touched I was on seeing her and listening to her, she even tried tactics of getting some money out of me. It pained me to see that because little kids may be learning to cheat on people because of their helplessness.
However, I would want to believe otherwise because I saw that notebook and pen in her hand, I saw how keen she was to be in school but bound because of her family’s condition, how she didn’t want to beg and had her self-respect in place, despite everything.
There are so many more young children like her, who want to have dreams and also make them come true, but lack the resources, are held back because of poverty and other related factors. Why should education and a safe home environment be a privilege for some? It is a necessity, after all, for each and every child.
Like I told her, buying that notebook and pen can never be a waste. It must not be something that she regrets or is made to feel bad about. Wanting to be educated is the best thing she could ever do for herself. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.