#BehindEveryFace – “I Had No Choice But To Drop Out Of School In The 9th Grade…But I Still Want To Study!” Says Suraj

“My father is a sweeper, and my mother a daily wage earner. Our circumstances compelled me to drop out of school in the 9th grade. Today, I work at my uncle’s shop as a welder. But it is my dream to study at an Industrial Training Institute…that’s why I tried running away from home,” said 17 year old Suraj.

Suraj came to the railway station because…

On 12th June 2019, we found 17-year-old Suraj who came to the Trichy railway station as he was planning to run away from his family due to some family issues. Our team member found him and initiated a conversation, after which he told us that he came to the railway station without informing his parents. Upon asking, he told us that there are 7 members in their family. His father is working as a sweeper on a contract basis and his mother is working as a daily wage earner. Suraj has 3 elder sisters and 1 elder brother, and one of his elder sisters got married and he is currently staying with her. His parents and other sibling were staying in Viralimalai. Suraj was a 9th standard dropout and was working as a welder in his uncle’s shop. He wasn’t interested in his studies and was working since a year. Our team rescued him and took him for further process.

Suraj was then taken to the station master and produced in front of the government railway police. After the basic procedures, he was taken to the child help desk. After out team member spoke to Suraj, he told us that he left home due to family issues. On 12th June 2019 he was produced in front of the child welfare committee and after a proper counselling session, we decided to admit him in the open shelter. In the open shelter, Suraj interacted with the other children made friends and was engaged in an informal education. He was then sent back home in June 2019. Constant phone follow ups were being done along with psycho social intervention.

His enrolment in a vocational course

On 24th June, through our family strengthening work our team decided to do a home visit at his place. On 7th July 2019, our team visited Suraj’s uncle’s house to meet Suraj. He told us that he collected all his documents and had enquired about the vocational course at the Pragathanbal ITI centre. He submitted his documents at the ITI centre for the course of a welder. The ITI centre authorities asked for Rs.10000 as a fee for the course that he had enrolled for, which he couldn’t afford and so he didn’t join the course but left his documents with them.

Challenges he faced during the enrolment procedure

Our team contacted the principal of the ITI centre and after we spoke to the principal, he said that the course fees was Rs.1000 per month. We spoke to Suraj’s uncle regarding the fees and he said that he’ll look into it. A few days later, during a follow up session, Suraj informed us that his family is not in a situation to pay the fees for the course and so he won’t be joining. On 13th July 2019, we received all his documents back for the Pragathanbal ITI centre back and enrolled him in a government aided ITI centre. On 14th July 2019, we got Suraj registered online and on the 20th July, he was admitted in the Government ITI for the course of welding. We explained the entire linking scheme to the parents and guided them through to apply for the unorganised welfare scheme.

After phone counselling sessions, Suraj told us that he is very happy that he joined the vocational course and his parents are too extremely happy that he is focusing on his education.

Suraj is one of the million childhood faces in India. Railway Children India’s initiative – #BehindEveryFace, is an attempt to uncover and discover the story behind every child’s face, that is waiting to be told. By shaping the loftier narrative of childhoods in India and giving a space to everyone to share their stories of younger days, we aim to build a collection of children’s stories, that are a testament to their lives.

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