The photo shows a girl holding an empty aluminium container in her hand, wistfully looking at students wearing school uniforms.

How a photograph helped a Telangana girl enrol in school
news Human interest Friday, November 08, 2019 - 18:21

Dressed in a blue printed kurta and shorts, she stood outside, peeping into the classroom. Careful to not disturb the class, holding an empty aluminium container in her hand, she wistfully looks at the students, probably her own age, in school uniforms, waiting for the classes to conclude. This photo of a girl, identified as Mothi Divya, was captured by  Avula Srinivas, photographer from Telugu newspaper Eenadu and published in the newspaper on Thursday.

Mothi Divya, was not a student in the school. However, at noon, during the lunch hour, she would regularly visit the Deval Jham Singh Government High School in her neighborhood in Gudimalkapur, Hyderabad, so that she could satiate her hunger by eating the leftover food from the midday meals provided by the government, which serves nutritious food including eggs. Divya belongs to the marginalised community of Budaga Jangam, categorised as a Scheduled Caste in Telangana. Her family lives in a shanty erected on a poramboku land (government land), just 300 meters away from the school.

The photo with the title ‘Aakali Choopu’ (which translates to ‘hungry look’) published in Eenadu. On Wednesday, Srinivas went to Gudimalkapur to do a story on dengue. Speaking about the viral photo he shares, “I was told that this school is located in a slum, so keeping in mind about the dengue angle, I went there to take photos of the infrastructure and cleanliness in the school premises. When I was parking my bike, Divya, came from behind and walked up to the school. She then waited near the class door, that’s when I took my camera and captured the moment.”

Srinivas adds, “After taking the photo, I spoke with Divya, that’s when she told me that she regularly comes to the school to eat the leftover food.”

The photo caught the attention of the NGO, Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya Foundation, which works for child rights. 

 After seeing the photo, MVF’s convenor, R Venkat Reddy sent their coordinator to the locality who traced the girl and their family. MVF learnt that Divya’s parents were garbage collectors. They enquired why Divya wasn’t enrolled in school, and subsequently admitted her in the same school after speaking with the school authorities. She was given a school uniform and admitted in the school on Thursday. 

“Since yesterday, my girl is going to school,” says her father, Laxman to TNM.

Both Laxman and his wife Yashoda work as garbage collectors, and leave their daughter at home. “The couple would work from 6 am to 2 pm, and leave their daughter at home. And during lunch time Divya would go to school,” says Nagalaxmi, MVF coordinator.

Divya is the youngest daughter of Laxman and Yashoda. Though they tried to enrol her in school earlier this year, they were told that she hasn’t completed the eligible age of five years to be admitted in the school. 

“My elder daughter is already studying in a hostel, I wanted Divya to be enrolled in the school this year, but we were told that children less than the age of five years wouldn’t be admitted; else I would have joined her in school,” says Laxman.

Laxman expresses happiness that his youngest daughter, too, is pursuing education.