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Education and Untouchables:

How the Caste System Hinders Opportunities

When I was growing up school was a fact of life. It wasn’t a choice. There wasn’t a discussion around it. I never even realized for many – millions in fact, school wasn’t on the table at all. For many of us, it wasn’t a luxury, but more of a chore. When those 6:30am alarms shook me from my sleep, I’ll admit – I didn’t roll out of bed full of thankfulness. Since then, I’ve grown to realize it was a privilege to get to go to school; to complain about homework and cafeteria lunches. And it’s now that I realize how many kids would love that opportunity.

Why Education Isn’t an Option in India

Education just simply isn’t important when you need to stay alive and make sure your younger siblings do as well. In India this is the reality for the nearly 200 million Dalits, or Untouchables. If you were born into an Untouchable family, chances are no one in your family has an education. Instead, your life and the lives of your parents and siblings are focused primarily on survival. Your father works in the fields in your village to provide for your family, your mother takes care of you and your siblings, and you spend your days walking far outside your village to collect water for your family to drink – water you share with the farm animals because you can’t share water with those of a higher caste than you.

How Set Free Works to Provide Educational Opportunities

Providing clean water:

Clean water truly changes everything. The lack of accessible and clean water diminishes a child’s possibility to receive an education. If a child is gone for several hours a day collecting water far away there is no time for school. If a child is too sick to concentrate there is no point in education. But when a well is drilled in an Untouchable village by Set Free’s drill crews, a child has hope for an education for the very first time. Why? Because they no longer have to walk 3+ miles each day to collect water from a swamp. Now they just walk to the center of the village and fill up their bucket. Now they never have to experience the horrible reality of water-related illness. Now their family’s burden has been lifted enough for education to become an option. And what better way to break the cycle of poverty than to pick up the armor of education? More educational opportunities lead to better economic prospects. Better economic prospects lead to more stable families in the future. To put it simply, giving a village clean water breaks the cycle of poverty by making education possible.

Rescuing children from slavery:

When a child is an Untouchable they are at a high risk of being targeted by predatory loans offered to desperate parents who need enough money to feed their families. When a family can’t pay these loans back, a child is taken into slavery as collateral. When a child is enslaved, our network of partners works to locate the mines these children are enslaved in for labor and plan a rescue mission. Once a child is rescued, their first goal is then to reunite a child with their family, but when that isn’t possible they are given a new home with a pastor partner where they heal, grow, and for the first time, are given the opportunity to receive an education which empowers them as they grow up to have a career – breaking the cycle of poverty and child slavery themselves.

Ways to Provide Educational Opportunities

  1. Learn – We’ve been given the opportunity so many don’t have, let’s use our resources.
  2. Give – When you give to Set Free you are working with us and our indigenous Indian partners to actively protect children against the cycle of poverty that they experience as Untouchables.
  3. Pray – pray with us that these children will be protected by the harsh realities they so often face and that they will experience a sense of hope that they one day may be empowered to make a difference through education.

You May Also Like:

The Indian Caste System: Explained

The Dalits – There is Hope For India’s Caste Aways


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