“I like going to school. I meet all my friends there,” is what the cheerful Ronica*, all of 12 years, from Lakhimpur District, Assam, said to us. Her chirpy smile hides a story, from not too long ago, in which not just her smiles, but her childhood had nearly been snatched away.
Ronica’s father is a daily-wage earner, and her mother works as a labourer at a local tea garden. At the tender age of six, Ronica was sent far, far away from home to the neighbouring state of Arunachal Pradesh to work as a domestic worker. Ronica would work from six in the morning to nine at night and in return, her parents would get some money as her wage. During the five years of her stay there, she was also moved by her employers to their relatives’ houses as and when the need arose. In these years, Ronica was not able to meet her parents.
On learning about this case, Peoples Action for Development (PAD), an ally of ActionAid India, discussed the matter with the various community collectives, including the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam, the village child protection committee and the women’s forum. They also informed the local police about it. As a result of the joint efforts, Ronica was rescued. Within a few days of her return home, Ronica again became a part of the community and her circle of friends. PAD also helped her get enrolled in a government school where she is studying in Class I. Ronica is now an active member of the village chapter of Adivasia Pad’aiyamanak Dera, the children’s clubs formed with support from PAD. These children’s clubs help monitor local children’s movements in order to keep them protected from child trafficking and labour; these clubs also focus on children’s continued education, and their participation in sports and other activities.
Over the years, PAD and ActionAid India have been working towards ensuring all-round development of marginalized Adivasi children. Towards this end, we have been running Joyful Learning Centres for children with support from local community youths who volunteer as teachers. These remedial-cum-tutorial centres, running in the evenings, create a joyful learning environment for Adivasi children and encourage them to study happily in their local dialects. Currently, nearly 1,200 children are regularly coming to these centres for learning.
“At the learning centre, we are all friends. We learn, play, sing and dance together. It’s so much fun being back home,” shared a happy Ronica.
*Name changed to protect identity
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