6 Reasons – Why children in India drop out of school and become child labourers

Story and photos by Ajitson Justus, World Vision India Communications

Why do so many of India’s children drop out from school?

We live in a time when people can see the benefit of investing in their children's future. Yet, curiously, there are as many as 12 million children in India who end up as child labourers. Recently, I visited Rajahmundry, in eastern India. There, I met many children who became child labourers.

Here’s what I learned about why children work instead of going to school:

Reason #1: Parents become sick

When Kanna's father became ill, Kanna dropped out of Grade 7 and became a blacksmith’s helper to help his mother earn money for food. At work, Kanna hammered big metal objects like the shock absorbers of large trucks. But that changed after one traumatizing incident.

Reason #2: The importance of a girl’s education is still not understood

"Everyone was discouraging us from going to school because we were four girls," Venkataramana says. Venkataramana dropped out from school when she was in the 8th grade and now earns money as a domestic helper.

Maheswari also feels gender discrimination in her family. "My parents bought marriage proposals for me, because there is this thought that education is for the boys only," Maheswari says. She too is now a domestic worker.

Purna too was forced to drop out of school at age 15 because her family didn’t see the value of educating a girl. But things turned around for her. 

Reason #3: A parent dies

Mariamma's father died from an alcohol addiction related illness. Her mother works in a restaurant where she sweeps the floor and cleans the dishes. When her mother became sick and was hospitalised, Mariamma took her place. It was the only way medical expenses could be paid.

Amar dropped out of school when his father died too. But his story has a happy ending.

Reason #4: The family is in never-ending debt

Siblings Ravikumar, Adisheshu and Bavani were on the verge of abandoning their education to pay off a loan of 15,000INR [$234 US] that their ailing grandparents incurred to pay for medical expenses. But things turned around for these three.

Reason #5: A child is ill

Balamurali contracted malaria and dropped out of school. He started working alongside his uncle as a carpenter’s helper.

Reason #6: There’s trouble at home

Malleshwari dropped out in the Grade 6 because family issues troubled her. Her parents always quarreled and she became very depressed - so she stayed at home and did not go to school for 3 years. Like many girls who drop out, she was loaded with household chores – cooking, cleaning and taking care of younger siblings.

One way we’re helping end child labour

World Vision helps young people in India form child protection units. We provide children training about their rights and their protection. We help support their groups but encourage the youth to take the leading role in advocating for change in their community.

These group of young people help prevent child labour, child marriage, child abuse, child trafficking and any such issue that could harm the interest of a child.

What are the results of their work?