“I come from a family of educators. Whether it is my grandfather, my mother or my aunt, they’ve motivated me immensely. I am an advocate by profession. But teaching is something I’ve always inclined myself to. I’ve been working with Teach For India for the past year wherein I have been working with a low-income private school in the heart of Old City.
As a lawyer, we are taught to look into the layers of a problem. This helped me gain close exposure to the ground reality. And this is what pushed me to choose the development sector.We are in the 21st century, and we’ve been hit by a pandemic. Online education is the new normal. This new normal has created a lot of havoc for students and the teachers. I have seen my students fight their battles while staying at home. A low-income household cannot sustain itself without sending a family member to earn. And in the present scenario, it is the children. I have personally come across multiple child labour cases. There are scores of similar cases in the classes I teach.
Where students still attend the classes and later do any other job to sustain themselves. We’ve come to a point of saying, :Okay your kid can work, but she/he will have to study for four hours a day”. Honestly, it is dreadful that we are failing to refrain a kid from working.Truth be told, online education is an expensive affair. The cost of a smartphone and the internet is an add on burden. For instance, I know a student who has taken up carpentry as a vocational course. When asked why, the student said, ‘”We don’t have enough money to afford an internet connection”. I’ve heard students say ‘Yahan par khane ke liye paisa nahi hai’. And all I can feel is helplessness while I listen to them.
On the other hand, our girls have been fighting an everlasting war. Sexual assault, child marriage and dropouts have increased rapidly. One such incident of child marriage is of a student from tenth grade. She comes from an abusive family. Her father, uncle and aunt decided to get her married in March 2021. The schools had reopened for a short while. She approached the school and told us that she is against whatever’s happening. We began pulling all the strings we had. We began to have anonymous talks about the same. Later, the groom called off the wedding as he realised she is sixteen years of age. But it did not stop here. Since then, her family has been trying to alter her age to eighteen years on all official documents. Yes, the marriage has been put on hold, but just for now.What makes these unprecedented times even more blood curdling is to see our teachers quit their profession.
Teachers of the low-income private schools haven’t been paid for the past six months. And now are in search of jobs that can fetch them immediate money. I don’t have a solution for the problem. But it’s our collective responsibility and the obligation of the government to help them. We are all in this together.”