She is a puny little girl, but it is her resolve to study, come what may, that sets her apart. All of 11 years, Neha epitomises the dreams every child of her age harbours and wishes to fulfill them.
At present a resident of slums near the meat market in Bilaspur, Neha was recently admitted to the government primary school at Changer village under the central government scheme 'education to all', which provides an opportunity to children who collect garbage, to enroll for studies.
What sets her apart from the rest of the children in her class is the six-month old child she carries, apart from her bag of books and textbooks.
"My mother moves from door to door daily to buy hand-me-downs in lieu of steel kitchen appliances. She has assigned me the duty to take care of my younger sister who is just six-month old. But thanks to my teachers who have allowed me to come to school along with the baby sister. The teachers are also helping me take care of the infant,” said Neha, whose parents migrated from Jagraon area in Ludhiana district in Punjab.
"My parents did not want to send me to school since they thought that there is no future in education. But I do not want that someone call me illiterate,” Neha told Hindustan Times.
“I have decided to become a teacher so that I too can serve others,” the little girl added.
Other children include two brothers who are natives of Chhattisgarh. Yogesh (9), Krishna (7) and their sister Rajeshwari (12) lost their father, but do not want to quit studies. “Our mother work as a labourer. We all have decided to become doctors so that we can free our mother from hard labour,” they said.
Rahul and Parbati, whose parents are from Nepal and work as migrant labourers, also shared their dreams for future during a visit to the school campus.
Principal Kamla Devi and her deputy Meena Devi said that authorities had instructed enrollment of more and more children by avoiding unnecessary formalities. “We came to know about garbage collectors living in the slum area near the meat. market We motivated them, after which the families agreed to enroll 14 children in our school,” they said.
“We are providing all help to these children so they can be educated properly. Other than providing meals and school uniforms under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, we are contributing money from our own pockets to help the needy students,” they added.