Eeramma is one of the many children who remember their childhood only against the backdrop of mines. “I was raised within the mines as my parents and elder siblings all worked there. When I turned 5, there was no question of anganwadi or school. My parents thought it was natural I start working with them in the mines.” Eeramma was rescued from child labour by the Don Bosco team and enrolled in the residential bridge school and helped to join mainstream education. Now she has successfully completed school and is ready to go to college.
Unlike Eeramma, not every girl and boy rescued in adolescence wants to go to school. Those who don’t are directed to an alternate livelihood through the vocational training courses offered by Don Bosco under the “Promotion and Protection of Rights of Children in the mining sector” project. Courses are offered in tailoring, electrical work and driving. A supplementary course on “Computer Application” is offered to those who have basic literacy.
Students at Don Bosco’s vocational training centre feel proud of their opportunity to learn when they thought it was too late for them. Admission preference is given to youngsters in the age group of 13-17 years who were formerly working in the mines and have never been to school. The vocational training centre functions in a well established infrastructure, providing students with practical training & safety equipment, with training & guidance by teachers qualified and experienced in their respective specializations. An indoor sports stadium, infirmary and sanitation facilities make the centre a child friendly space. Apart from the training and academic inputs, regular sports and games ensure the students right to play and recreation.
During 2016 – 2017, Don Bosco trained 164 youth in a range of employable trades, of which 84 were placed in jobs or helped to be self-employed. They earn an average income of Rs. 5000 – Rs.8000. Nearly 200 past pupil are still actively part of the Don Bosco alumni group and have been volunteering to motivate the present batch of students and also lending a supportive hand in identifying and referring child labourers in Bellary District. As Eeramma and the trained girls say, “We have always equated work with dirt and pollution. We have never thought that we could be in a job and stay clean and healthy. The training at the vocational training centre has not just given us an income but dignity and a lot of self respect. And a job that we would call decent work”.