A child laborer back to school

Endriyas Mari, 17, was born to a destitute family in Arbaminch, about 500 kilometers south of Addis Ababa.  His parents had to feed their four children working as a daily laborer. As their income was too meager to feed and send all of their children to school, they had to go to school with poor clothing and with no shoes. “Barefooted and wearing tattered clothes, I attended school up to grade 6. But later, I wearied out, quit school and started working a daily labor as a fisher,” Endriyas sadly recalls.

His workday began from 5:00 AM in the morning, after an hour lunch break, continued until 6:00 PM in the evening. As a fisher, he had to glide the raft boat all day long for and backward from the edge of the lake to center to catch fish. While gliding the raft boat, he used to encounter life risking challenges. He says, “I sometimes encounter crocodiles. The crocodiles swim under my raft boat and tried to turnover and eat me up. I also used to meet hippos. Hippos can be extremely dangerous especially when they are protecting their calves. There were instances where the hippos pushed my raft boat up from inside and turned over. I had to save myself by swimming.”

The job itself was highly energy demanding. “You had to float the raft boat forward by pushing the water back ward through a leveled flat wood. At the end of the day, I was always getting exhausted so much that I even did not know where I slept all night long,” he sadly recollects.

World Vision, funded by United States Department of Labor (USDOL), has begun supporting children engaged in child labor as of 2011. Endriyas has become one of the beneficiaries. At first World Vision provided him writing materials, garments and shoes to help him resume his education. Having provided skill training on hair dressing for a month, he was given startup capital to start hair dressing business.

He is now back to school and attending in grade nine. He attends school in the morning and does hair dressing business in the afternoon. He says, “I am now the happiest boy in the world for two reasons: I am back to school and attending happily. I do not have financial challenges because I am earning about 700 Birr (nearly USD 35) a month from hair dressing business and can finance my school expenses. I also sometimes subsides my family.”

Endriyas has a dream to be someone in the future. He says, “This time around, there is nothing that stumbles my schooling. My education performance has improved. I have a dream to be a medical doctor and contribute my part to my country.”