It can be hard for us sometimes. Each day we see the children who have a fantastic aura surrounding them as they burst in to the room greeting us, the smiles and laughter are infectious and could bring a smile to even the most sullen of us. It even works when they're being naughty; you tell them off and walk around the corner so they can't see you anymore and chuckle to yourself… They make our work so enjoyable as they are a pure delight to work with.
Unfortunately, we can't control what happens when they get home. For those who don't know all of the children we help live with their families, many are from single parent families and we do help a few orphans, although they continue to stay with extended family, like grandparents and aunts/ uncles.
At the beginning of this week Robert had a call from one of the girls, it was around 6:45pm and we had seen the girl the day earlier in the day. She had mentioned to one of the staff about her father complaining she was not doing work at home, but we didn’t think it was anything too serious.
The girl’s phone call started…
"Good Evening" … "Can I ask you one question"…. Can I stay at your home? *crying*
As you can imagine, we didn’t quite know what to say and wasn’t sure what the problem was so Robert asked "Why? What problem?", "Where are you now?"..
"At home" she replied.
Robert spoke to her and said he would visit her home and have a chat to find out what the problem was.
Within 10 minutes Robert reached her home and found her sat in one corner of the room, tears running down her cheeks; her mother was there. The girl asked Robert again, in a broken voice "I can come and stay at your house?", Robert replied saying that it wasn't quite as easy as that, as she was just 14 years old, we would need to speak to Childline to see what the procedure was.
The girl explained that her father had been complaining that she never did any work and was always out roaming, he continued by saying there is no point in her going to school, she should just stay at home and work.
The girl is from a Muslim family and it can often be more challenging to convince the parents that girls should also be allowed an education. The girl is still just a child and needs to attend school (this is thankfully backed up by law). Many of the families we help have a preference for their sons, often not caring about their daughters' education, wellbeing or freedom. This particular girl’s brothers seemingly have full freedom to do as they please, but when she would like just a fraction of what they have she is treated with contempt by her father.
The girls' father had said don't go to school and if you leave the house then you don't need to come back! Robert continued to speak with the girl, but it was a little difficult speaking with her mother who doesn't speak any English and the girl was too upset to translate. Robert called on Yallama (our teacher) to come and help out. Thankfully she just lives 2 minutes away, so they both, Robert and Yallama, returned within 10 minutes.
With the help of Yallama, the mother opened up and confirmed that her husband was quite an abrupt man and that is just how he is, but she didn't feel the same. Even though she didn't agree with her husband's words she didn’t speak up against him.
We explained that it was important that her daughter continue at school and we would need to act on her behalf if she was not allowed to go. The mother seemed to understand and we highlighted that Goa Outreach provides everything she needs so there is no burden on the family, and if the girl didn't go she would just be sat at home, not doing anything productive, which made no sense.
We spoke of the benefits of education and that she as a child has her own rights under law. Robert and Yallama had also met the headmaster earlier in the day who informed the mother that the girl was well regarded and considered a good and helpful student, which we hoped would give them some pride in their daughter.
The girl's father joined us a little later and seemed to fit his description well, he was very short and sharp with his language when speaking to Yallama which made Yallama feel a little uncomfortable speaking with him but she stayed a little longer, which we are grateful for, backed up by Robert.
The father was of the opinion this was his personal problem and he didn't want to discuss anything about his daughter, her education or anything, he wasn't aggressive but showed a lack of empathy and wiliness to see his daughters side.
We left around 8:15 and made it clear that we expected the girl to continue her education and hoped she would be at school the next day.
The next day….
Sadly our meeting with the family didn't seem to change their minds and the girl missed school the next day. Robert and Yallama went to school to check and speak to the head master. The headmaster kindly offered to call up the father to ask why she hadn’t come and her father claimed he didn’t know as he was at work although he works just 5 meters away from their home.
Robert and Yallama once again visited her home and spoke to the mother. This time we made it clear that we would have to involve Childline and the police. Robert called up Childline in front of them both, this time her mother said she would back up her daughter and walk with her to school if she had to. Yes! We thought.
Thankfully our second visit was more successful and we are glad to say that the girl has been attending school every day since. We will continue to check-up on her and fingers crossed everything will be fine and she can at least finish this years’ studies. We will have to see what happens in the new school year.