Story of a caged bird

Economic compulsion forces many poor parents to send their children to work

Few days back, when I stopped my bike at a traffic signal when it turned red, a poor small boy without slippers on feet and wearing a tattered shirt and half-pant approached me and pestered me to buy some children’s books which were about birds, flowers and fruits.

I smiled at him and asked him whether he knew what these books were about or could he read them? I could see a crestfallen face. I asked him whether he wished to go to school. He replied “my mother is sick and father earns very little.

Leave alone going to school, we can hardly afford a square meal a day. I have to work from morning to evening to supplement my father’s income.” Economic compulsion forces many poor parents to send their children to work at an early age to supplement the meagre family income. These children languish in slavery in dimly lit, cramped spaces in factories, work at traffic signals and as domestic help, toiling 16 hours a day with meagre pay and more abuse.

The small boy sold books about birds along with books on flowers and fruits, but he is still a caged bird engaged in child labour. Without proper education this flower will wilt before blooming. Who will sow the seeds of education in him, which will bear fruit in his later years?

The poor boy selling books about fruits may not make enough money to buy apples nor can he keep the doctor away for too long as the air pollution is very dense at traffic signals. The lead from the exhaust of vehicles will make him anemic and create lot of respiratory problems.

I wonder if the poor boy selling educational books at traffic signal is smart enough to spot the prospective customers and target them in those 30 vital seconds, he can as well be imparted education and groomed into a better citizen who can contribute for the betterment of the society.

Illiteracy and poverty are very intricately linked. As long as sizeable proportion of population is illiterate, the country cannot make notable progress in different fields. Only proper education can change the attitude of people towards life and their living standards.­

It is high time we work on war footing to make educational facilities even for the marginalised section of society which will integrate them into societal mainstream. Oh! I have to move on; the signal has turned green for me, but for the poor boy…?

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