The Right to Education Act, passed by the Indian government in August 2009, makes education a fundamental right for every child between the age of six and 14. Despite this extremely positive step, school drop-out rates remain high among poor and disadvantaged children, who face both economic and social barriers to education.
||Even though school attendance is free in India, many families are unable to send their children to school because of the prohibitive cost of uniforms and books. Families living below the poverty line are often forced to prioritise a child’s wage-earning capacity over its education and parents can be reluctant to enforce or encourage school attendance because of the immediate financial benefits of child labour. Although children can easily be absorbed into the labour market and quickly earn a low wage, the consequences of a lack of education prevent future career progression and forces them into a cycle of poverty in which their own children will face similar economic difficulties and a lack of educational opportunities.
This problem is particularly acute for girls, who are often pressured into leaving school early so they can contribute to housework, seek paid employment, or marry. The commonly-held belief that educating girls is unimportant creates long-term gender inequalities, with the World Bank putting adult female literacy as low as 48 per cent, compared with 73 per cent of adult males.1 School drop-outs are also likely when families migrate from neighbouring states because the children’s education has already been disrupted.
1World Bank Key Development Indicators
CINI supports out-of-school children by addressing these economic and social issues. Through education camps, CINI provides academic and non-academic support to children from the slums in Kolkata, where many find themselves trapped in hazardous and exploitative working conditions. CINI helps to improve school retention rates by working closely with the local community, especially parents, to advocate the benefits of education to individuals, families and to wider society.
Educational, health and nutritional support
We ensured that around 5,000 children benefited through community-based awareness campaigns on education, health, protection and nutrition.
We helped conduct mass-awareness programmes on child abuse, trafficking, child labour and early marriage. These were conducted through the support of the CINI-run CHILDLINE programme.
Counselling support and entry into formal school
Ninety two children received education, health, nutritional, recreational and need-based counselling support; while 68 children were mainstreamed into formal school s and a further 62 children received coaching.
Support for teachers
We have helped teachers to focus on the admission of street or ‘never schooled’ children in order to make the process easier for all concerned.
Reducing out-of-school children
The number of out-of-school children in the community has been reduced through our enrolment drive and coaching support.
We allocated two volunteers to look into further resources available for the community, focusing on academic research, communal mobilisation and imaginative capacity building.
The parents of out-of-school children and the community as a whole contributed to their children’s education - a process which enhances the reputation of education as a solution for poor families.
We carried out educational programmes specific to the slum and red light areas of Kolkata. Many children at risk in this red light area have now been mainstreamed into formal schools. Around 250 school-going and non school-going children received educational support in the form of books, admission charges, uniforms and school bags.
This provides working mothers with a safe space for children below the age of six.
Children above the age of 14
We provided 10 children with a route out of poverty, through their own efforts, by supporting them on courses which included computer training, hotel management and equipment repair.
We established and developed a children’s council to enable children to act as watchdogs and help prevent any violation of their rights.