Grameen Shikkha

I met the most wonderful sari maker. He works out of his home while also attending school. His name is Arju and the intricate detail he employs is some of the best I have seen.  I think it is because his hand are so small.  Arju is ten. 
Arju works fro 6 to 9 a.m., goes to school from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and then works from 5 p.m. to ten p.m. He works six days a week and has Friday off. When you meet him at school, he seems like any child. He laughs and smiles. I could tell he was mesmerized by my pen. I had a soccer ball pen and I traded him for his orange pen. The soccer ball lights up and he watched it turn off and on. He then passed it around to each child in the class so they could turn the light on and off. 
Arju lives in the Mirpur slums. He is expected to work. Grameen Shikkha is a vast education program by Grameen ( The slum program takes school to the child’s neighborhood. If not, he or she would never be able to attend school. No one at Grameen bats an eye as Arju takes us to his home and shows us how he makes saris. I believe it is a necessary evil to them. If they scold the parents, the parents may not let the child come back to school. I am sure it is a struggle for Grameen–at least it would be for me. 
There are 20 slum schools that house 20 to 25 children. The grades are one to five. Arju’s English is very good and he tells us that he studies Bangali, English, math, science and religion here. His favorite subject is English and he would like to be a car engineer one day. I hope he can. 
Another boy in the class boasts that he makes 900 taka a week making wedding saris. He is 13. Another young girl shows off beading that she made on the shirt and scarf. She is not as talented as the other boy and is considered unskilled so she only makes regular saris at 150 a week (a little more than $2). I would like to know who is buying these saris. 
I believe child labor is wrong but a person I met here says, what are the parents to do if they also do not make enough to feed their child? There are no programs to help the family. 
How do you feel about it? Each time I think of Arju’s smile, I can’t believe that child labor is the answer. 


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