She would be an inspiration to many. A Muthulakshmi was nine-years-old when she was forced to work in a fancy shop in Trichy. In 2009, she was rescued and rehabilitated, today Muthulakshmi is a proud student who has scored 454 out of 500.
In a calm voice, she begins the interview telling her name and age. The 16-year-old sounded serene but her excitement was palpable.
Muthulakshmi’s father Alagan left them when she was nine-years-old and she was forced by her mother to go work at a fancy shop due to financial constraints. Her mother Dhanalakshmi works as a daily wage labourer at construction sites. “When I joined the job, I used to be frequently scolded by the shopkeeper, but later I got used to it,” said Muthulakshmi.
She was rescued by an education inspector who sent her to an education center in Woraiyur under the National Child Labour Project and after Class V, Muthulakshmi was sent to study at KAP Viswanathan Higher Secondary School.
It had not been easy for Muthulakshmi in spite of everything. After turning 14, she started working at a shop, post her classes. “I work in a shop from 4pm to 9:30pm,” said Muthulakshmi.
“Our financial condition is very bad and I earn about Rs. 3000 to support my family,” she added.
But Muthulaksmi does not want to limit herself to her part-time job. She wants to pursue B. Com after Class XII and become a bank manager one day. “She has always been a good student and scored well since she joined us in 2009,” said Perlin, Project Director of Cheers NGO in Trichy.
Talking about why so many children were used as labourers, she said, “Two major reasons are financial condition of the family and sometimes children themselves being disinterested in studies. In Muthulakshmis case, her father left them and went, mother did not have any other choice other than sending her daughter for work.”
Cheers is an organization that tries to convince parents not to send their children for work, instead to enroll them in schools.