Sameer Hilam – Mangaon

Sameer Hilam

Sameer is a shy child. As a documentor of his story, when I ask him his name, we’re stuck on smiles and amused silences for a while. But he transforms as a person when he’s handed a phone. Technology lights up this 10 year olds’ eyes with curiosity. He’s able to Google questions, YouTube songs, calculate complex problems and click photos within a second in his phone.

This love for technology is what drove Sameer to fight for a computer for his school. “I want to teach other children too,” he states. However, people on gadgets is a fairly rare sight where he comes from. He was born in Kurudu Adivasi Wadi, a tribal hamlet in the Western Ghats of Mangaon, Maharashtra. He’s the first amongst six other children and is studying in 5th standard.

For the people in his village, everyday life and livelihood is a struggle. They migrate for close to six months to brick kilns and sand mines to make ends meet, often returning empty handed. Child marriage and school dropouts are a norm, more than an exception. His own father works at a sand mine and his mother is a farm labourer. In this reality, Sameer dreams of making films some day.

Sameer is a part of Bal Sansad, a joint initiative by UNICEF, Centre for Social Action (CSA) and Pratyek. Bal Sansads are Children’s Parliaments which seek to make children aware of their constitutional rights and urge them to be active citizens in their area. On an exposure visit to a Public Health Clinic in Palasgaon, a village close to his Wadi, Sameer spotted a computer for the first time and found it fascinating. The buttons, the light, the sounds! He immediately knew he wanted one for his village.

Access to computers and e-learning remains largely a luxury in India. And yet, computers and the internet hold enormous potential for remote learning. Sameer knew his rights and wanted to fight for them. He sought the help of Bhingare Madam, his local Wadi Sevika. Wadi Sevikas are local women trained by CSA for supporting education and livelihoods in their area. Bhingare Madam suggested that he goes to the local Gavki, a village level conflict resolution committee. Members of the Gavki heard his request and asked him to approach the Gram Sabha. Sameer persisted and approached his Gram Sabha in their next meeting. For a 10 year old child, that too an acutely shy one,talking in front of the village elders was quite daunting. But with Bhingare Madam, he spoke up and spoke well.

He requested for a computer for his school from the Sarpanch, saying it will help his classmates learn better. A computer in his school was his right. Upon hearing a child make a case for hisrights, the Sarpanch was impressed. He agreed to disbursing a part of the Right to Education budget.

Within 15 days, Sameer’s efforts proved fruitful. There was a bright and shiny computer in his school. He’d done it! In a community where daily sustenance is a struggle, Sameer managed to bring in a computer, and slowly started learning how to use it. “I can Google, watch videos and sometimes we play games too,” he says with a mischievous smile.

Sameer’s struggle for accessing information technology still continues. Fifteen days after the computer came in, there was a blast and the fuse in his school burst. “When there was electricity, there was no computer. When there’s a computer, there’s no electricity,” he chuckles.

When asked whether he would like to give a message to other children in India, he remains tight-lipped. “I don’t know. I want to study and become someone someday.” He likes Shahrukh Khan and hopes to make films.

Written by : Rucha Satoor