Today I would like to introduce you to another girl called Monika who will start learning at our school in two weeks. She is five years old and has been living with her grandmother here in Vrindavan for the past two years.
Monika’s mother is 25 years old and the eldest of five children. She was married when she was sixteen years old and Monika was her first child. Her husband, Monika’s father, is a labourer who mostly brings bricks from the merchant to construction sites. They had two more children who are now three and two years old. When the youngest was born, Monika’s mother asked her own mother to take her eldest daughter. She didn’t see herself able to raise the three small children on her husband’s meager income.
The grandmother, who still has her youngest two at home, agreed. Now Monika is living with her grandparents, her 14-year-old aunt and her 13-year-old uncle.
The grandfather works in religious theatres, performing the scriptures. It is a job that always requires people but doesn’t bring a lot of money. That’s how his wife also goes to work in an Ashram and a guesthouse as a maid. Together, they earn about 120 to 150 US-Dollars, of which they pay close to 30 US-Dollar rent for one big room and a tiny one attached. The attached room is supposed to be a bathroom and toilet but as there is no water connection yet and the room is still raw bricks, the family simply turned it into their kitchen.
Proudly, the grandmother tells how she has married her three eldest daughters, all at the age of 15 or 16, when they had finished their 8th or 9th class at school. It is a matter of pride – as this was her first responsibility as a mother!
We ask her fourth daughter, who is sitting next to Monika, whether she still went to school. No, she had learned until the 11th grade, then they had moved and she had not gone to school anymore. Although we encourage her to go back to school, we know that the grandmother’s plans are most probably different: finding a suitable husband as soon as possible.
For Monika however, we can guarantee that she will get the best education of her family at no cost at all! We are looking forward to having her at our school – and she already wanted to join us when we visited her home, not being able to wait any longer!