As usual on every Friday, I am going to introduce you to a child of our school. This time it is a nine-year-old boy called Vishal.
When his mother came out to meet us on the road, she brought along her six-year-old girl. She looked like a very young mother and so we asked her for her age. She said she is 26 years old. That means she gave birth to Vishal when she was 17, became pregnant when she was 16 and married probably a few months before that. It is not shockingly young and one could actually call it a normal age for poor people to marry their daughters at. For Ramona – and thus other people from the west however, this is quite young! It is illegal here as well, but at the time of the marriage, they just claim that the girl is 18 years old already. As there are no birth certificates and she may not even ever have been to school, there are no papers to prove the opposite.
However it is, this young mother manages her home and her two children on her own while her husband is at work. He drives an ox-wagon, earning 4 US-Dollars on good days – and not even that on bad days. Work is just never sure, so he goes out to places where contractors search for workers and waits there for someone to need an ox-wagon.
The home of the family looks a bit strange when you see it for the first time. Upon entering, there is a small washing area with a hand-pump and then a gallery that you have to go fully through until you reach three steps, leading you down one-and-a-half meters where you are standing in front of one single room: their house. The funny architecture has a reason: they were all part of a joint family until two years ago, when Vishal’s uncle and aunt wanted to separate homes due to fights in the family. So they simply built a wall in the middle of the property and everyone now lives in less space, but separately.
The reason that their main room for living is so low is that in that time, that was the road level. They did not have money to fill the plot and thus just built where there was the ground in that time. Over time, the road level rose – and they had to build stairs to go down to their room. This means in monsoon time, when it is raining and one wants to be inside, all the water flows down into their room.
Nevertheless, as we usually experience it with the children of our school, the family is happy. And they appreciate the support for their son very much, who has only started school with eight years because they found our free school.
When we heard that even Vishal’s sister learns together with him, we asked her to tell us a bit what she had learned – and she told us nearly the complete alphabet! We told them to bring the girl to our school in the next school year, so that she, too, can learn!