Although summer is just beginning here in the United States, in India it’s back to school time.
Students in the 107 Good Shepherd Schools DFN supports are almost ready for a brand new year. Backpacks are being filled, uniforms are being purchased, and teachers are preparing to have full classrooms once again.
Jassica is 11 years of age.
She is one of those 26,000 students in India who are ready for the new year. Wide-eyed with curiosity, interested in art and folk dancing, she is thankful to be in school again this year. It wasn’t that long ago when she thought she might never be able to go back.
You see, Jassica’s mother became overwhelmed with the difficulties of living in extreme poverty and decided she would leave her family, abandoning Jassica’s father and siblings. It’s a sad story, but a common one. Often when a parent decides to leave the family, the older children must go to work to help supplement the family income.
Although Jassica’s father is uneducated, fortunately he believes in the power of education, the freedom it offers.
So in the midst of his grief, he packed up his little family and moved into his mother’s home. Each day he journeys to the village square and seeks that day’s work. If he finds work at all, it’s usually lifting and loading cargo onto trucks for transport. It’s exhausting and physically demanding work, and the wages are very low.
He’s satisfied though. He knows his own sacrifice means his girls can have a brighter future. He’s grateful to his mother for caring for the girls while he works. And he’s grateful to the Good Shepherd School in his area.
Jassica’s life could have been very different. Instead of preparing to go back to school this year, she could be working in a factory, or cleaning toilets in someone’s home. She could have been picking vegetables alongside her aunt. She could have been carrying rocks in a quarry.
Instead, she’s filling her backpack. And her mind.
Thanks to supporters of Good Shepherd Schools through Dalit Freedom Network, Jassica is free to be exactly what she should be at this time in her life. She is free to be a student.