Sponsorship helps families avoid child labor
June 1, 2011
Shahanaz Begam knows that one doesn't have to travel very far in India to see children working.
Durga Prasad, a CFCA sponsored child in India, does his
homework after school. He was working full time at age 11
to help his family. A CFCA social worker encouraged his
mother to send him back to school.
Although India officially prohibits child labor, the practice persists in part because of India's economic reality. For some parents, the income their children earn helps sustain the family.
Begam, a CFCA social worker in Hyderabad, India, takes every opportunity to educate parents and children about the promising future an education can give a child, and ultimately, that child's family.
Patience is key
In 2007, Begam visited Durga Prasad's home. Durga Prasad, 11 at the time, sat on the floor, helping his mother, Padma, mix clay and mold figures.
Begam chatted with Padma and learned the family's situation. She explained the value of an education and how it could help Durga Prasad, the youngest of Padma's five children.
"I asked Durga Prasad to come to the office for tutoring whenever he gets time after his work," Begam said.
CFCA-Hyderabad runs a tutoring program with support from the local administration of the Hyderabad school district. The service is available to all children, both sponsored and those who are not sponsored.
Durga Prasad attended the tutoring program faithfully for the following year. Noticing his interest in school, Begam asked Durga Prasad's parents to enroll him in regular school.
"I assured them that if he goes to school regularly, we can try for CFCA sponsorship," Begam said.
His parents consented and in 2010, Durga Prasad was sponsored. His grades are very good, and he has been promoted to seventh grade. He helps with the family business just on school holidays, so he can focus on his homework after school.
Challenge of changing minds
For every Durga Prasad success story, there is a story of a child or parents who refuse the opportunity of an education.
"The main reason was poverty," Begam said. "I have observed that the children who were accustomed to work and earning money did not opt for school. And the parents who were dependent on the income did not encourage the children to go to school."
Dedicated CFCA social workers such as Begam have a real challenge to change the minds of some parents in India about child labor.
Durga Prasad and CFCA social worker
Shahanaz Begam chat during one of
Despite India's Child Labor Act of 1986, which prohibits children younger than 14 from working in various hazardous occupations and conditions, Begam finds children from underprivileged homes as young as age 6 working.
When faced with more immediate needs, such as food and adequate shelter, parents can overlook the importance of education for their children's future.
Before meeting Begam, Durga Prasad had started school, but Padma pulled him out after her older daughter married and left home.
"Immediately after my first daughter's marriage, we had a financial problem and also were in need of another helping hand," Padma said. "[So Durga Prasad] started helping us."
Another factor that prevents parents from supporting their children's education is the parents themselves are illiterate and unaware of the benefits of an education.
Fortunately, CFCA social workers take a personal interest in the future of these children. By listening and understanding the family's situation, many times they can counsel the family to choose education.
"CFCA social workers work hard to convince families of the value of education," Sara Asmussen, India project specialist, said. "But CFCA program participants are empowered to make their own decisions, and families are free to pull out of the program. Meanwhile, our staff continues to extend the gift of education to other families."
Durga Prasad continues to be a diligent student.
"Recently at the CFCA sankrantri (festival) celebrations, he won the first prize in essay writing," Begam said. "I was very happy."