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Stories from the Field

Breaking barriers, Transforming lives

HiWEL, since 2001, has facilitated learning and education through unconditional public access to computers. For one who spent nights at a railway station without even the basic amenities, for an orphan who did not even have proper access to basic education and for a child who have faced hardships even to the extent of his parents giving him up, HiWEL‘s Learning Station is the avenue to an experience beyond what they face every day; their window to the outside world. For each child who comes to the Learning Station, they have a different view to share. Below are a few glimpses from what the children expressed.

Tamanna’s story is that of true grit and perseverance. Eldest of seven siblings, she had to drop out of school at a very early age. However her aspiration to study grew with her age and she found the in-road to Delhi when one of her neighbour approached her with a proposal of completing her studies in the city. Soon as she arrived in Delhi her dream was shattered when she found herself as an easy victim to be engaged as domestic worker in the family’s residence.
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Santosh (name changed), or for that matter, no children his age would have given a thought as to what life’s turns would have in store for him. At 16 today, Santosh recounts. He barely remembers if he had a family of his own; all he retains is that he grew up in an Ashram in Mumbai where he lived and attended school. After a trifling fight over a cricket match with friends in the Ashram, he ran away in fear of facing punishment. With the intent of fleeing the city he found his way to the railway station and boarded a train.
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Rajiv started picking rags at a very young age after he dropped out of school. The meager income of his parents, who are also rag dealers, forced him to leave school and earn to add to the family income. At 14, he was already pulling a rickshaw and supporting the family economically. He was exposed to the Learning Station in 2008 and initially started with closely observing other users. Slowly he started trying his hand at the Learning Station however the other users did not liked his interference and chased him away. With the facilitator’s intervention, he was accepted by other users and Rajiv learnt how to use the Learning Station.
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Salim’s (name changed) story is that of trivial sibling fight leading to an unfavourable situation. At the age of five, Salim was constantly urged by his sister to help him in household chores while he wanted to study and attend school. They had fights very often and one day, when he grew tired and frustrated, he left his home. After roaming the streets near his village, Salim found his way to the railway station and boarded the first train he came across. A man on the train offered to help him and on reaching Chennai, he was handed over to a government run children’s home.
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Youngest user, Ashiya- Ashiya, 5 years of age, can’t see the screen of the Learning Station given her height. However, this does not disappoint the little girl or make her turn away. Her mother, the HiWEL co-coordinator at Madangir, places a chair in front of the Learning Station and Ashiya climbs on with an excited gleam in her eyes. With the help of her mother and her aunts, Rubina and Zainab, who have rigorously used the Learning Station over a decade, Ashiya, a second generation user, is learning how to operate the Learning Station.
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Suresh (name changed) lost his father, a rickshaw puller, at the tender age of two. Pressurized by her family, the responsibility of a mentally challenged daughter and lack of economical support, his mother gave him up at a Nirmal Chhaya Home in Delhi with the hope of her son receiving better care than what she would be able to provide him. He says, “I had never even seen a computer closely before I started using the Learning Station. It is a beautiful opportunity for children like us who do not have access to such things. We hear from other children in our class about computers and internet but very rarely do children like us get a chance to experience it first-hand.”
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For an 8 year old girl from a conservative family in one of the resettlement colonies, life ahead would have been bound by shackles of conservative attitude and monetary hardships. However, determined and eager to learn, Rubina jumped at the opportunity of using the Learning Station when it was first installed in the Madangir community in 2000. At 18 today, Rubina recalls the excitement of the children in the neighbourhood when Sheila Dikshit came to inaugurate the Learning Station. “Since that day”, she proudly states, “I have been going to the HiWEL Learning Station regularly.”
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Zainab would stare at the Learning Station from a distance when it was first installed in Madangir in 2000. Even though she felt the same excitement and curiosity regarding the computer as the rest of the children of the neighbourhood, the shy 8 year old girl was wary and apprehensive of using the Learning Station. Seeing her cousin, Rubina using it however, motivated Zainab and soon she started visiting the learning station regularly. Now at 18, the young girl attributes her confident nature to the time spent at the Learning Station.
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On a normal day to school, 11 year old Ravi (name changed) lost his way after running away from the village with his friends when he got into a fight and hit someone profusely. He was found by the police and deported to a Delhi Home. After investigation, within days the family was identified and called to take the boy back. However, when his father arrived to pick him up Ravi refused to go back home and chose to stay back. A slow learner, at 17 Ravi is studying class VII curriculum. He realizes that he has a difficult time with his academics but is determined to work hard and finish his education.
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Dipesh comes from a migrant family of 5 who came to Delhi in search of livelihood options. Due to the financial crisis in his family, he could not continue his studies and dropped out at his 5th class despite his eagerness and urge to attend a school. He earns his living by selling golgappas (snacks) on a push cart (thela) from dawn to dusk.
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Youngest of 4 siblings, Ali (name changed) says most of his childhood memories are of struggling to do housework. The young boy would crave to go to school like the rest of the children in his neighbourhood but while they sat in classrooms reciting their tables, Ali was busy running errands. What added to his frustration, Ali says is the beating he would receive on making the tiniest of mistakes. Agitated and angry, 9 year old Ali ran away from home.
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Shahin had never attended school nor had any exposure to education when she first interacted with the HiWEL Learning Station. Her daily wage earner parents who migrated to Delhi in search of a livelihood had no supporting documents to get her enrolled in a school.
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