In a few months from now, Jitendra Naik will step into college to pursue his higher studies, which is something he could not have dreamt of six years ago when he was doing the dishes in a hotel as a child labourer in Odishas Mayurbhanj district.
Like Jitendra, his schoolmate Ajay Kumar Patra too cleared this years matriculation examination with flying colours. He was rescued while working as a daily wager around 2014.
Along with them, ten other students, mostly tribals and rescued from child labour, have cleared the exam.
Under normal circumstances, their milestones would have called for a big celebration, given the difficult circumstances they overcame. However, the news received a rather muted reception due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I dont dream big. My next challenge is to complete the college. I have requested my relatives to give financial assistance to help me climb the next ladder of education, said Jitendra. Ajay, however, wants to be a teacher to give back to society. The two have secured more than 60% marks in their Class 10 examination.
Foundation of these tribal students success was laid around 2014 when the then Mayurbhanj District Collector Rajesh Pravakar Patil initiated a programme to make the district child labour-free.
Subsequently, children were rescued from eateries, houses and hazardous work places and kept in hostels for urban deprived children.