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Slip between lip & cup

Child Labour

VARANASI: The Right to Education (RTE) Act that promises a right to free and compulsory education to Every child between 6-14 years is going to complete its first year on April 1. But, unfortunately, a number of children of this age group are still out of school in the district, though basic education authorities claim there is no child left out of school in the district.

“We had identified 1,257 such children during the last survey conducted in July-August 2010 and all of them were admitted to different schools,” said Triloki Sharma of basic education department when contacted on Monday. “Presently there is no child of 6-14-year age-group out of school,” he claimed and added the next survey would be conducted in the coming months of July-August.

It may sound very pleasant, but the reality is something else. One can easily see children engaged in roadside dhabas, tea stalls, rag picking and other ‘unhealthy’ jobs. They do not go to schools due to one reason or the other. “The claim of officials itself contradicts the fact that the school drop-out rate in the Uttar Pradesh is about 25-30%,” said Rajni Kant, state convener of Campaign against Child Labour (CACL). “Till date, the maximum number of child labourers (about 10 lakh) are in UP,” he said and added in such a situation, how could they claim that all children were brought under the umbrella of RTE Act.

“Even the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is not functioning properly,” claimed Lenin Raghuvanshi of Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR). Both Kant and Raghuvanshi alleged that the education right of children was being violated openly with issues like improper student-children ratio and lack of proper infrastructure. The PVCHR recently conducted a sample survey of 17 primary schools in Varanasi, Sonebhadra and Ambedkar Nagar districts to evaluate the situation. It was found that only 72 teachers were rendering education to 10,125 students there, said Raghuvanshi and added there was no programme to connect child labourers in those schools.

A large number of children of this age group are street children and engaged in rag picking. There is no official data on the exact number of such children. However, according to Rajiv Srivasta of Vishal Bharat Sansthan, around 12,000 rag pickers and street children were found in a survey conducted three years ago.

On the other hand, the finance minister, while presenting the Union Budget, had announced Rs 21,000 crore to SSA, which was 40% higher than the previous year’s allocation of Rs 15,000 crore. According to reports of CACL and HAQ Centre for Child Right, increased allocations in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal Schemes will hopefully stem the drop-out rate. SSA, the central government’s flagship programme launched in 2001, aims at universalisation of elementary education in a time-bound manner. It is being implemented in partnership with state governments to cover the entire country. The emphasis is on mainstreaming out-of-school children through diverse strategies and providing eight years of schooling for all children in 6-14 age group. It aims at providing useful and relevant elementary education to all children in this age group by 2010.

“But, how can the government achieve this goal without adequate number of schools,” wondered Kant and added many area of the district, particularly minority-dominated localities, lacked government-run primary schools. According to norms, there should be a government primary school for a population of 300 at a distance of every one kilometre and an upper primary school for a population of 800 at every two kilometres. But, according to the records of the basic education department, there are 1,032 primary and 352 upper primary schools in the district.


Times of India, March 28. 2011


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