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Local Givings - Prashant H Fadia And American India Foundation - Savitha's Story


SAVITHA, 12 years old
Village Gharana, Kutch

When Savitha she came to the hostel in Gharana village, she didn’t know how to read and write. But now she is doing very well in school. Earlier, she would bathe once a month because that was what she was used to but now she takes a shower everyday and takes care of herself. And she loves to participate in any programmes and talent shows that we put up in school. In talent competitions, she always comes first.  She used to be addicted to tobacco before she came here but if you look at how responsibly she takes care of her uniform and how well she takes care of herself, you wouldn’t be able to recognize her today.

Do you remember what your life was like before you came here?

Savitha: Yes! Earlier, I would go to work with my parents. I didn’t know anything. All I did was play. I didn’t learn anything. I went to the charcoal fields at a very young age. The clothes I wore... I remember were torn and dirty. When we played in the fields, we played with the sticks that they would make charcoal out of. I remember eating ghutka when other people were also eating it.

How did you get ghutka (tobacco sold in pouches)?

Savitha: Every week, my family would go to the market to buy rations. If they had any leftover money, they would use it to buy ghutka and we would all eat it. Sometimes, my mother would give me money to go and buy it.

How did you feel about the hostel when you first came here?

Savitha: It felt so different. I didn’t know how to stay here, I remember thinking, “How will I study? How will I stay here with all these other children?” Once I started staying here, I really liked it.

How did you come here?

Rumilla ben: Before the hostel opened, we met with all the migrant parents to tell them that the hostel would be open soon and for them to send their children here. We told them that we would educate their children and feed them. Savitha’s parents, while they were on vacation in the village, said that they would send her here, but when they started to get ready to migrate, her mother told me that she had changed her mind since she wouldn’t like it if Savitha didn’t come with to the fields. She said that she couldn’t sleep well at night if Savitha wasn’t with her family. We continued to explain to Savitha’s parents that we would take care of her. After some time, they agreed. Savitha started enjoying it here when she started to make friends with all the other children. She then told her mother that she would stay here.

Do you have any siblings?

Savitha: I have a brother. He is younger than me. He is also here now because I told my parents that I liked it here and so they left him here too.

Do you see a difference between the government school and the hostel?

Savitha: I like it when Rumilla ben teaches us. Over here, after they teach us something, they also review the topic with us over and over again. Over there, in school, there is no revision, they teach us once and that is it. Over here they also teach us with TLMs.

What difference do you see in yourself now?

Savitha: When I used to go to the salt pans for eight months with my parents, we would come back to the village for a few months. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t even know that this was actually my village and that the salt pans weren’t my home.  I didn’t even know the name of this village. I would ask, “Why are we here? What is this place?”

I would never go to school regularly because I was so scared of the teacher. But now I go to school every day.

I didn’t know anything about TLMs and now I know how to even make them myself!

What do you say to other children who migrate with their parents?

Savitha: I tell the children who migrate to stay in the hostel. I ask them, “why are you leaving? You should stay here!” I also tell them about the government school and tell them that we should be going to both. I ask them, “what do you do there, in the fields?” and they say, “we work there” and they say to me, “you have changed a lot because you can read and write but we are not like you, Savitha” and they leave. Some children have listened to me but some have also gone back.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Savitha: I want to be a teacher. I like the idea of teaching.

When your parents come back to the village for vacation, do you help them at home?

Savitha: I teach my younger sister how to read and write and how to count. In the government school, if my parents needed to sign anything, they used to hesitate because they didn’t know how to write their names so they gave their fingerprints. But I have taught them how to write their names.  When my parents go to work, they count how much money they should have made. I listen to my father because he knows how to count and I learn from him about how to keep the accounts. But my mother forgets her numbers more often and makes more mistakes in calculating things so I help her. When I go to visit my parents in the work site, and if my mother has to go to the market to get any items, she always takes me along because she knows that I can count and sometimes shopkeepers cheat her of money when I’m not there.

Do you study when the hostel closes down for vacations?

Savitha: When we have vacations, our hostel closes but we still have coaching classes. So, I come to the coaching classes in the morning and then go to school from 10am to 5pm. Then after school, we all get together and play and then eat dinner and then do homework.

Do your parents phone you?

Savitha: Yes, they call Rumilla ben, my teacher, on her mobile and they speak to me.

What did they say to you in the last phone call they made to you?

They called about four days ago. I said, “Don’t worry about me. How are you? I am fine and am studying really well and eating well.” My younger sister always asks, “how do you find it there? Have you eaten?” I like hearing her voice. 

Who is your closest friend here?

Savitha: I have so many. But my favourite would be Rumilla. Well, one of the Rumilla’s because there are four Rumilla’s here!

What is your favourite subject?

Savitha: Gujarati. That’s my mother tongue and I really like it.

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