It is Friday again, the day for introducing you to one of our school’s children. Once more, it is going to be a child that is in our lowest class although already old enough to be in fourth class! Today it is Shalini, nine years.
Shalini is the eldest of four siblings and lives with her mother, father, two brothers and one sister in the middle of the old town of Vrindavan. The six of them live in one room of four of a small house which is so in between the walls of others that there is hardly any light down to the ground floor where they live. The other three rooms of the house are occupied by Shalini’s uncles and their families.
That’s how they distributed their inheritance, also making clear that every brother now earns on his own and feeds his family on his own. Unfortunately, Shalini’s father is not really able to provide for his wife and children very well.
He does embroidery, creating clothes for deities. When we ask Shalini’s mother, she tells us that he earns only 50 Rupees a day – not even one US-Dollar! We cannot believe it: we know of labourers that earn six times as much! The neighbour tells us loudly from behind: He drinks lots of alcohol! Shalini’s mother confirms this. Most of the money he earns is spent for alcohol. And then? In the evening, after drinking, does he hit you? Yes. And the kids? No, he doesn’t touch the kids.
That’s it, the story of this house, told soberly and without much passion by the neighbour and the victim of domestic abuse herself. The addiction to alcohol is the reason for her pain, the reason for the children not wearing proper clothes and the reason she has to ask her husband’s brothers for help when there is not enough money for food. They feed the children or give them flour, lentils and rice.
They don’t have enough to pay school fees though! They cannot afford sending their brother’s children to school as well as their own. That’s how Shalini with her nine years has never been to school.
On her first day of school, she was excited. Now, after nearly four months of school, she loves it! It is fun, she has made friends and she learns happily. We hope it will give her a future with a loving husband, not a violent one. A future where she doesn’t have to beg others for food.