We Need to Go to School: Voices of the Rugmark Children
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps
Dave Hutchinson is assistant superintendent of the School District of
Mystery Lake in Thompson, Manitoba.
“Exploitive child labour is a complex problem,” writes author Tanya
Roberts-Davis, “but part of the solution is to provide all children
with the opportunity to go to school, where they can learn to read,
become informed about their rights and find the means to escape the
stranglehold of poverty.” This statement captures the essence of this
book. Centred on the rug-factory experiences and struggles of a number
of children from Nepal, Pakistan, and India, the text features a host of
personal narratives conveyed through poetry and informal essays.
All children, however, are beneficiaries of the international
“Rugmark” initiative, which arose in response to the significant
overrepresentation of children in rug factories. The children, ranging
in ages from 7 to 13, often worked 12–hour days for little pay or
food. With the intervention of Rugmark, the children were released from
their factory work and enrolled in special residential schools. In
addition, Rugmark ensures that rugs made in factories that do not use
child labor are appropriately marked.
We Need to Go to School is evidence that emancipatory models of
literacy development can be effective, particularly when systemic
discrimination, poverty, and disillusionment figure prominently in
students’ lives. In many ways, this text provides insight into the
kind of narrative writing that would be equally effective with any group
of marginalized students, whether they be working in a rug factory in
Nepal or struggling to master British/Western European curricula and
culture in a classroom on a northern Manitoba reserve. In general,
however, the book would be an excellent support for Grades 5 to 8 social
studies and language arts. Highly recommended.