child marriage

One married at 9, three gone to forest with parents

Jamshedpur: It was a day of disappointments for me. Today, I visited Kislay after a gap of a few days. I was eager to see for myself the progress being made by the new students of Kislay - the school that has been opened recently,  especially for Savar children,  by Yuva and Asha For Education. I saw the children looking joyously happy in their red uniforms. They looked no different from the bright faces that we see running around in other mainstream schools. I was happy to see them.

But, then I was also in for a big shock. I learnt that four children had absented themselves from attending the class. This was a big disappointment, I was dreading about this from the very start. I had a fear that for one reason or the other, the children might stop coming to the school. After all, there are so many extraneous factors controlling the circumstances of their life.

The reason cited for the absence of those four children was very simple for most Savars, though it may sound shocking to others. Three girls have gone to the forest with their parents. No guess should be made as to when they would return. The children would return when their parents return. It may take a few days.

But, the reason for the absence of fourth child, Kuni Savar, was really very shocking for me. She did not come to school because she has been married off to someone. At the age of 9.

Savar Children studying in Kislay - a school for Savar children run by Yuva, Jamshedpur and Asha for Education

Well, this does happen in Savar community. Many children are indeed married at a tender age. While, the rest of India thinks that it is a social evil and an unlawful act, Savars hardly know anything about social evils and laws that govern the rest of us. They just don't care. Because, they are just not aware.

In fact, Puja, another Savar girl attending classes in Kislay regularly, has also been married. But, she has not been sent to her husband's house, yet. And we have been able to persuade her parents to allow her to attend our school regularly. She is a bright girl and is attending the classes enthusiastically.

Our only hope is that we will also be able to convince the parents of Kuni Savar and her in-laws to allow her to remain in her native village and attend the school regularly.

For the three girls who have gone to the forests, they would return with their parents.

And as far as Kuni Savar, the girl who got married yesterday, is concerned, she just does not know what big change has taken place in her life. Her parents were  drunk and happy. In fact, the entire community gets drunk on hooch and spends most of its earnings from wood-selling on hooch. Others, from outside their community, do make money by selling hooch to them.

Savars are one of the endangered tribes of India. They remain isolated. It seems that even the government prefers not to disturb them much. And this seems to be a good social policy for them, at least for now.

We,  too, do not want to disturb their life too much. We only want Savar children to join mainstream of education. Kislay is a step towards that end. We believe only education can bring about positive changes in Savar community.

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