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Child labourers go from the dump to the classroom

On World Day Against Child Labour, this series of photos shows how 16,000 former child labourers from Hyderabad, India were able to leave their work behind and go to school.

Despite decades of reform, child labour continues across India. From making bangles to working as rag-pickers on rubbish dumps, a vast number of children continue to be forced to work which puts them at risk and stops them from following their ambitions.

Plan International’s Anti-Child Labour project, implemented in partnership with the Human Dignity Foundation and local partner Mahita, is working in Hyderabad, India to rescue and rehabilitate child labourers.

The project helps the children’s caregivers set up small businesses so they have enough money to send their children to school.

Sarah leaving home to go to school
Former child labourer Sarah, 13, is now able to go to school.

Thirteen-year-old Sarah’s mother worked as a rag-picker on a rubbish dump next to their house on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Due to her family’s struggles, Sarah was forced to work as a domestic servant from the age of 9, cleaning dishes, mopping the floor and washing clothes.

Sarah's grandmother running her shop
Plan International provided Sarah's grandmother with a loan which she used to set up a small shop.

Now living with her grandmother after her mother’s mental health deteriorated, it took months of counselling to encourage her to go to school. Her grandmother was given a loan so she could set up a small shop, make a living and pay for Sarah’s education.

Former child labourer Prabhat, 12
Prabhat is currently catching up on the education he has missed before entering a mainstream school.

Twelve-year-old Prabhat used to work on Hyderabad's largest rubbish dump collecting and selling rubbish alongside his mother and siblings. "I used to jump over the wall or crawl through the fence, fill up my bag and sell it. I would do this every day," he says.

Prabhat, 12, is a former child labourer
Prabhat used to work collecting and selling rubbish.

However, Prabhat’s mother was able to start a snack shop with the loan she received. The money she earns means she can send her children to school. Prabhat is currently in a bridge school which is helping him catch up on his studies before he enters a mainstream school. 

Former child labourers attend a catch-up class
Catch up classes are helping former child labourers prepare for mainstream education.

The bridge school, run by the National Child Rights Protection Centre, offers catch-up classes to former child labourers. Many of the children were introduced to the school by coordinators who work with Plan International on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

Former child labourer Manikanta, 7, playing outside his home
Former child labourer Manikanta, 7, playing outside his home.

Seven-year-old Manikanta used to be a rag-picker. He lives in a slum opposite Hyderabad's rubbish dump and was rescued by project workers. He is now at the bridge school and is looking forward to starting mainstream education. 

Yasmani and her son Uday outside their home in Hyderabad
Receiving a loan has helped Yasmani increase her income so Uday no longer has to work.

Yasmani’s son Uday was found rag-picking at the rubbish dump by project workers. Yasmani accepted a loan to expand her business and has now increased her income, allowing Uday to return to school.

Former child labourer Uday reading a book outside his home
Thanks to the Anti-Child Labour project, Uday has been able to return to school.

In the 3 years it has been running, our Anti-Child Labour project has rescued almost 16,000 children from child labour and helped them go to school.

Learn more about our global work to keep children safe

Photos by Ruhani Kaur.