Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

A child labourer shares her lessons about education

What happens when a child, through no fault of their own, is forced into great adversity?

What happens when a child, born into poverty, is forced to help raise a sibling and work on the streets before they can even read and write?

This is the personal account of one resilient and courageous young girl who faced such obstacles, and is now looking forward to a brighter future.

My name is May Su*. I am 11 years old. I live in Myanmar.

I’ve been out of school for about four years already. I dropped out of school because I don’t have money. My mother also passed away and there was my month-old little sister who needed care.

I felt very sad when I had to drop out of school.

When I was in school, I liked going to school with my friends and playing with my friends.

I had to sell water spinach after I dropped out. When I first started selling, I was shy and scared.

I’ve been selling water spinach for more than two years now. Over that time, I also had to look after my little sister. I sell water spinach from 7am. After selling, I go home to cook. I cook rice, curries, fry eggs and water spinach. Then I go to the non-formal education class supported by ChildFund.

In the evening, I sell from 4pm to about 5 or 6pm. My legs ache from walking.

May Su dropped out of school at seven years old

Walking a new path

I am so happy to be able to attend the non-formal education class supported by ChildFund. I learn Myanmar, English, mathematics and other subjects. I think I have learnt a lot. I attend five days a week from 9am to 12pm.

Sometimes, when the sales of water spinach are not good, I have to keep going and I get to class very late.

I feel happy and at the same time I feel sad to go to the class. I feel sad because I don’t feel confident leaving my little sister alone.

In the morning, I leave my sister in the care of people I know before I set off to sell water spinach. I try to keep an eye on her the whole day.

I teach the Myanmar alphabet, English alphabet and maths to my sister.

Like many children who are not in school, May Su works to help her family

I think education is important. When I was able to go to school, I thought about leaving school. When I could no longer go to school, I had a desire to go to school all the time.

Sometimes I feel sad to see other children going to school in their uniforms.

I want to study again in state school and I try my best in class. If my teacher asks me to write one page, I might write about three pages.

I want to study up to university level.

If I didn’t get to study, my world would be sunk in the mud. That’s why I am attending the class.

I am worried about our livelihood. I want to work in agriculture when I grow up. I want to plant the trees and I want to help my father earn more money.

*Name has been changed

ChildFund’s non-formal education classes are helping vulnerable children like May Su catch up on schooling and access quality education so they have the chance to return to school and build better lives for themselves and their families.

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