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For this child cobbler, earning bread is more important than going to school

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau

Odagaon, Apr 20:

Anyone who has had a chance to visit Bahadajhola-Manikapatna Chowk, a busy business centre in Odisha’s Nayagarh district, may have come across this 12-yr-old boy, Peru Meher who sits in front of the passengers’ rest shed, polishing and repairing shoes and chappals to earn his bread for the day.

Peru at work
Peru at work

“The whole family, my father Surendra Meher, mother Shaktilata and my ten-year old younger brother Bhima- all do this work. We polish and repair shoes, chappals and bags for a living”, says Peru as he applies a coat of polish to a pair of shoes.

Local people say, Peru’s family has been  repairing shoes for the last ten years while taking shelter at the Yatri Nivas compound here.

Peru never went to school. He joined his parents’ vocation pretty early in life.

“We are natives of  Durga Bazaar Mochi Sahi in Daspalla. I too had a desire to go to school but what can we do babu, we are poor people each one of us has to earn his meal,” Peru says without raising his head as his tiny deft fingers are busy stitching a piece of leather to  a tattered shoe left by  a customer.

As you bid goodbye to him after an exchange of  parting smiles, you realise the reason why the Sarva Shikshya Abhijan, the Right to Education, free mid-day meals, free uniforms, free books – that are meant to ensure all children in the age group of 6 to 14 join school, fail to motivate or lure children like Peru to join schools for the simple reason that earning the bread for themselves and their families supercedes just everything else.