BRIDGING BACK TO SCHOOL

Anusha and Rama, the Unbiological Sisters, as they were known, dust their school bags to resume school after 3 years. Sun burns, deep bruises, rough wounded hands and sore blisters had ripped out a part of their childhood just like a bandage, ripped from a fresh wound.

By Nidhi Joshi
I
ntern – CASA Communications

”We still have those scars on our hands,” Anusha grieved. The thorny cotton plant pricked their tender hands during the pollination process – a nine hour daily wage labour prevalent in the cotton-producing belt of Andhra Pradesh.

Teachers at CASA Bridge School were glad to have Anusha and Rama back in class.

The smell of new books made them nostalgic. Behind their beautiful smiles, the two “best friends” had a similar story to tell.

Bearing the burden of responsibilities on their petite shoulders at a very young age, the two had to drop out of a government school. Instead, they were “forced” to reserve their day for a long tedious routine in chilli and cotton fields, earning a meagre daily wage of Rs 100.

With a family of six, Anusha helped her parents (daily wage labourers) repay the loan of her sister’s marriage. Rama’s side of the story remains gruesome. Her father was left impaired after an unfortunate accident and was doomed unfit for physical labour.

The girls would start their day at 5 AM preparing to cover a distance of 40 km. “We travelled by overloaded pubic autos and every time on our way back we could see our schoolmates returning from their evening classes,” Rama said.

The nine hour arduous labour work left scars not only on their hands but on their hearts as well. Deep cuts on their palms, heads burning in heat and the wrath of owners broke them down a little each day.

“Rama had severe joint pain and I started catching frequent typhoid fevers. We had to work anyway,” Anusha sighs.

“There were days when I fainted on the field due to hunger and stress, Anu often covered it up for me,” Rama cried while speaking to the reporters.

Resuming school after a gap of three long years was not easy.

At the age of 15, now they are happier and enjoy their studies. The Bridge Course Centre (BCC) is giving them all the comfort that they need while studying. “We are excited to be back in school”, they say cheerfully.

“I want to become a nurse and serve my village. There are many people like my father that are suffering”, says Rama Devi. She aims to turn her life around and help people.

While, Anusha’s favourite subject is English and she wants to teach children when she grows up. “I want to help the other children like me, I want to teach them and lend support and courage,” she says.

Hand in hand, they walk their way back home from the bridge school, just like before.

It is an extraordinary story of friendship and courage. The Unbiological Sisters are an inspiration to all the children going through hard times. Anusha and Rama were one of the thousand children facing child labour, but today lead a life of hope and aspiration.