I would like to introduce you to Deepak and Kailash today. Deepak is ten years old and in the first class of our school. Kailash is fourteen and already in fourth class. Like all of our children, they come from a poor family. These days, the family’s biggest worry once more is money. It will decide over the future of the boys’ elder sister.
The family’s father is a simple labourer, earning about four US-Dollars a day. Whenever he gets work for the whole month, the family has enough to get by on but laboring is a very instable work. One day you work, the next day you have to search another place, find something else to do, have to earn money from somewhere else. This is why Kailash’s mother works as well. She is a helper and cleaner at a school. Before and after lessons she cleans the classrooms and while school is going on, she fetches water for the teachers, brings the smaller children to toilet and back and delivers messages. Should her husband not find work for a bigger part of the month, it is her income, about 30 US-Dollars, which helps them make ends meet.
For a while already however they have tried hard to save some of their monthly income and put it aside for a bigger event: their oldest daughter is now eighteen and thus in an age when, in their opinion, girls should get married. Of course it will be an arranged marriage and the parents will choose who should be their future son-in-law, whose house their daughter will move to. They have been looking for a husband for several weeks and have had some offers but the biggest problem is, as usual, money. The market of arranged marriages is like every other market: if you want to have quality, it costs. For a good husband, they have to give a good dowry! It may be a practice forbidden by law but when even high society still clings to this principle of buying spouses like at the cattle market, why would the lower and lowest class do without?
The mother tells us that they have already had to turn down a good possible groom because of the money. It was a nice boy and they thought their daughter would live well in his family’s home – but they asked for a motorbike and two lakh Rupees on top. Altogether that means about 4000 US-Dollar. Too much for this poor family. Their limit lies at about 3000 US-Dollar all in all, with the expenses for the celebration, the venue, the food and of course the dowry.
This is what they are saving for. They know that they might have to take loans from a few neighbours but as much as they can, they want to pay on their own. That’s how their home, currently consisting of one finished room and half a brick wall of the second room won’t be constructed any further in the coming months. They won’t close the second room, they won’t put a roof on it and they won’t put a door on their entrance but keep the blanket which is hanging there now.
They would even have more difficulties if they had to pay school fees at a primary school for the boys! Now they can come to our school for free. In these two brothers you can see how people’s nature can be completely different! While Deepak is a calm and peaceful boy who studies hard and brings back good marks as a result, Kailash is the complete opposite. He struggles with learning and nearly failed last year, he had fights with other boys of his as well as higher classes and the teachers often have to remind him that he is not supposed to talk during class. Maybe it is those famous teenage hormones taking over or he has a very different nature than his brother – but we will manage to get him through school so that in the end he will have a solid base of education.