Sahil lives in a persecuted Dalit community in Bihar State, India. Through the education and encouragement of his teacher at one of the Learning Centres we support here, he has not only realised his rights, but those of his wider community. Now he has become a teacher himself and is ‘paying it forward’ helping younger children to know their self worth and access vital services.
Despite being illegal, the caste system in India continues to assign individuals a certain hierarchical status according to Hindu beliefs. Traditionally there are four principal castes and a fifth category of people who fall outside of the caste system; the Dalits.
The word Dalit is generally used to refer to people who were once known as ‘untouchables’ because of the impurity connected with their traditional ‘outcaste’ occupations. To this day, discrimination is causing children to be ostracised from education and denied their rights.
In the last two years Sahil has carried on with his studies, completed his grade 10 and is now in year 11. He is going for the ‘competitive exam’ which gives access to jobs in the public sector as he’d like to work for the government. He wants to take care of his parents and serve his country.
Sahli has also now become a teacher himself at Sahabulla Learning Centre. He says “I want to change the things that aren’t right for people in my area. I help people fight for their entitlements. I take them to the government office and make them aware. I gather people, do a meeting, people share their problems and we write applications based on those problems. We identify which officer is best to approach and hand over the application. It is difficult, but we succeed. I want to make sure more children learn like I did and don’t get stuck in distress”.
What Sahil has and continues to achieve is a great example of what can happen when children are supported to realise their rights. Project leader Varsha Jawalgekar says ‘If Dalit children grow up thinking they are nothing, then they will expect nothing in life. Education is the start of this change.”