Rescued As A Child Labour From Mica Mine, Rajkumari Today Is A Catalyst For Change

A for apple, B for ball, C for cat…

Chirpy voices waft out of the classroom where little ones are engrossed in their books…

In the room next door, its time for some number crunching…children are glued to the board as their Didi teaches them number tables…

Today’s ground reality which was unthinkable till even a few years back…

“I had never ever dreamt even in my wildest dreams that we could study, that we could stand on our own feet. Life for us was a constant struggle…working in the mica mines along with parents…every single day for a paltry sum,” says Rajkumari.

Rescued as a child labour in 2006 when she was just 12, Rajkumari today is a catalyst for change in her community. A die-hard activist speaking up against child labour and child marriage, she is today a teacher at the Bal Mitra School run by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) at remote Topa Pahari village in Jharkhand.

“There was no school in our village and education was a distant dream. As children, all that we did was scavenge for mica. There was no light for us as it were. We were doomed from the very beginning. But then everything changed when KSCF came to our area with the mission to start schools. Their activists talked to our parents and convinced them about sending children to school for a better future,” Rajkumari recalls.

An active member of the Bal Panchayat when she was a child, Rajkumari had been instrumental in mobilizing other children to stand up against child marriage and child labour. She led a group of children to a marriage mandap once and tore it down to stop the marriage of a 11-year-old girl in their village. “We were threatened, we are insulted and called names. But we refused to budge. We were successful in preventing the child’s marriage. And that acted as a force multiplier in stopping other child marriages as well,” observes Rajkumari.

Besides rescuing other children engaged in child labour, children have played a pivotal role in putting an end to other social evils as well. Led by Rajkumari, children were also instrumental in nipping the bud of alcoholism in the village.

“We broke down two huge barrels where liquor was being made. We have seen how alcoholism destroys families. Education opened our eyes and ears,” says Rajkumari.

Today, besides teaching children from neighbouring villages, Rajkumari acts as a community mobiliser speaking to community members and sensitizing them about children’s education and why it is important to ensure that they carry on with their studies and not be thrust into child labour.

“There is no alternative to studies. I give my example to others and tell them that I got a job only because I complete my studies. Similarly, when children study and get educated, they too will be able to stand on their own feet,” beams Rajkumari.