Chandrika Devi eyes well up as her fingers pass through the hair of her 12-year-old son, Vikas. “All my hopes rest on him now,” she says, wiping her eyes.
Chandrika’s older son mysteriously disappeared on his way to their village in the Madhubani district of Bihar, in Eastern India a few years ago. He has never been found.
Chandrika and her husband are daily wage labourers in the rapidly expanding city of Jammu in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in North India. The family of four – including a nine-year-old son, Vishal – is slowly overcoming the tragic shock of the disappearance.
“I dropped out of school following the incident. I lost all interest in studies,” recalls Vikas. “Most of my days were spent playing and loitering with other kids my age around the construction sites where my parents work.” On one such day, a tutor visited Chandrika’s house during a survey. After enquiring about Vikas, the tutor informed the parents about a project running at a nearby community centre, Chandrika explains.
Education for Child, a programme. “Initially I was a little anxious about joining the centre,” says Vikas. “But with each passing day I noticed that tutors at the centre introduced new activities and games as methods of teaching subjects like mathematics and English. It was very different and way more interesting from how they taught us at the school.”
Today, after having spent nearly a year at the centre, Vikas is on his way to be enrolled in a nearby government school in his age-appropriate grade.
“I am very grateful to program coordinator for helping me regain the confidence, learning levels and social skills for joining a school again,” he says, as his mother’s expression gives way to a proud smile, reflecting her confident hope for the future.