Published: 22nd May 2020
Edex Impact: Kalinga University offers bonded labourer-turned-student fee waiver to continue studies
Edexlive had written about Khemlal a month back. At that time, he had exhausted all his savings, buying essentials during the lockdown
At this point, it will be quite redundant to say that COVID has turned the world upside down for many. It shattered many lives and their dreams and aspirations. Of the thousands who lost their income during the lockdown was Khemlal Khaterji, a 28-year-old MSW student in Kalinga University, Raipur. A bonded labourer for over 10 years before he was rescued, education was his ticket to a new life.
When we last spoke to him, he was devastated and hopeless. He had exhausted all the money that he had saved up, working part-time as a daily wage labourer, to pay his college fee, by buying essentials. However, things have started to look better for Khemlal. A few days after we last wrote about him, Khemlal was contacted by the Deputy Registrar of his university, who offered him a fee waiver for the next semester. "A few days after the news about me came, the university authorities had read about the issue and asked me to bring a written application after the lockdown is lifted. They said that they will offer all help and give me a fee waiver," says Khemlal. "I am now hopeful and quite happy," he says.
There was a clear difference in Khemlal's voice this time. He sounded happier than before. "It is my dream to open an NGO and help the people in need. That is the reason why I opted to study MSW," he says. A member of ILFAT – Indian Leadership Forum Against Trafficking, he worked as a bonded manual labourer in a brick factory in Chattisgarh. "My parents worked there and I grew up watching them work. My father fell ill when I was 12 and could not go to work. So, I started working to support my family," he told us then. He also recalled how he was made to work long hours every day. Most days, he only drank water and didn't eat anything.
Khemlal tells us that his university now holds classes online for some subjects. "I do not have a good internet connection to attend online classes. But my faculty later sends me videos and study materials via WhatsApp. I study those religiously," he adds.