When children fall behind, especially after having been pulled out of school to move with their family of migrant workers to another cotton-farming region, getting back on track can be difficult. It often leads to a permanent end to the child’s education. And this can put a stop childhood dreams of grown-up careers.
Pratham, a consortium partner of Save the Children, supports with tools and activities used to improve language and mathematic skills of the selected students identified as at risk. We visited one of their afternoon catch-up camps in the village of Khedibarki to meet some of the kids.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor with a small group of six children, I asked them if they enjoyed being there. “We love it here because it’s fun!” a boy in a green plaid shirt told me after he urged me to sit in a circle with them.
“When we’re at school, we sit in the same classroom and teachers just come in one-by-one to teach us different subjects. Here, we play games and learn the subjects in a different way.”
One of the boys in the group, dressed in a salmon shirt and a wide grin told me that he enjoyed studying English. After which, he proudly showed me his notebook filled with cursive penmanship and shared that he wanted to be a teacher.
Two boys, in green plaid and blue checked shirts who both loved drawing – “Animals and landscapes, mostly,” they both said independently of each other – told me they want to be doctors. When I jokingly called them the “Drawing Doctors” and asked if they were brothers, they laughed and playfully nudged each other, nodding with wide-eyed grins.
A cheerful little girl, with a pixie haircut, and didn’t hesitate when she told me her favourite subject was Mathematics. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. “Math teacher?” I asked her with a wink. “Of course,” she replied. “But other subjects too!”
Another girl, wearing a violet scarf and whose favourite subject was Sanskrit, told me that she wanted to be a police officer. “I want to catch bad guys and solve problems in the community,” she explained. “I think I would be good at that.”
And then there was Lakshmi, the lone six-year old in the group of eight-year olds who loved studying Hindi, giggled shyly, shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t know yet what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“There’s still plenty of time to just enjoy being a kid, Lakshmi,” I told her. “And that’s exactly what you should do. Play and learn.”
She giggled some more as she looked at me with her squinted eyes and infectious smile.