Sonthosi, 40, has four daughters. Because she never attended school, she believes a quality education is the only way her daughters can have a chance at a better life.
Rasu, who is in first grade at Shringery Secondary School, looks out the open front door. Despite the sun barely being up, her mother has already left to work on a construction site.
Because Sonthoshi cannot read or write, she works as a day laborer. If she works from sunrise to sunset, she can usually make about $3 a day to support her family of six.
With Sonthoshi out working every day, the household responsibilities fall to her two oldest daughters.
Ganga cleans the main floor of the house. Her parents sleep on a mat in the corner with their youngest daughter, Sabita. It’s also where they keep the chickens.
Sonthoshi never knows when work will be available, so she takes every offer she can find. Sometimes that means she works backbreaking jobs for weeks at a time without rest. Her husband often drinks too much and has been unreliable in helping to support the family.
Because the family doesn’t own any farm land, they make do with the few vegetables they can grow around their house and whatever they can buy. Meals usually consist of rice with boiled vegetables, like turnips or radishes, seasoned with ground chili peppers.
The house that the Rokka family rents has no running water, no glass in the windows to keep the cold out, and no electricity—except when they rig an extension cord to tap into the main line outside. When it works, it powers a single light bulb.
Jamuna, 14, missed a day of school to go into the forest and collect firewood. The wood is a valuable commodity reserved only for cooking. As important as a good education is to this family, the chores of survival always come first.
In addition to child care, Ganga and her older sister Jamuna are also responsible for cooking, laundry, and housework. Once all of those chores are finished, the girls can start on their schoolwork.
Ganga steadies a koithi between her feet and uses it to slice vegetables for dinner. There is no electricity, so her sister holds a light to illuminate her workspace.
Jamuna checks in on Ganga and Rasu as they’re helping each other with their homework.
Since Jamuna and Ganga are responsible for most of the chores, Rasu, 6, has more time for homework.