Children transition from labor to learning

In India, an informal “transit school” prepares children for daily school as they transition from a life of labor to learning.

Story and photo by Annila Harris. Edited by Heidi Isaza.
Published February 13, 2012 at 12:00am PST

Rizwana works hard to support her family of three. She spends her days scrubbing, cleaning, and polishing at two nearby homes to keep food on the table and make sure Shifa, 9, stays in school and has a bright future.

Her income, a meager $28 a month, is the only income for her family.

Carrying the weight of adult responsibilities

There is nothing wrong with an honest income and hard work. The problem is that Rizwana is 12. She is a child carrying the weight of an adult on her small shoulders.

“I cannot attend regular school because of so many responsibilities,” she says.

After her mother died and her father abandoned her and her sister, Rizwana was forced to drop out of school and assume the role of adult.

Thankfully, their grandmother, Bano, 69, can provide the girls a place to live. But the elderly woman has neither income nor energy to provide for the girls’ ongoing needs.

Transit school prepares working children for regular school 

Rizwana is not alone. Many children in this community face similar circumstances. Boys often work as rag-pickers or help loading goods.

In 2010, World Vision set up a transit school in Rizwana’s community to help children in similar situations. These informal education centers help children who have never attended or have dropped out of school, preparing them to return to regular classes.

Not only does World Vision support the classes, it also helps reach out to the adults in the community, like Rizwana’s grandmother, who often don’t see the need for education, especially when faced with the daunting task of daily survival.

When World Vision volunteers first approached Bano about her granddaughter’s desire to come to the classes, she was skeptical.

“If she goes to study, who will go for work?” she asked. “How will we run the family?”

A change in mindset

Eventually, Bano saw the value in sending Shifa to school. Today, Rizwana can be seen taking her younger sister to the transit center every day on her way to work.

“I will send my younger sister to school and will educate her up to a higher standard and do everything for her bright future,” she says.

Rizwana has been able to attend classes off and on, and has learned to read basic Hindi and some English words. She still dreams of returning to school.

Three ways you can help

Pray for children like Rizwana who have no choice but to work to support their families. Pray that they find a way to attend school again.

Make a one-time gift to help provide education for a child. Your donation will help pay school fees and provide essentials like uniforms, textbooks, backpacks, and school supplies.

Sponsor a child in India. Your support will help a boy or girl in need to stay in school, while having access to basics like clean water, nutritious food, healthcare, and more.