Kavitha's two sons, David and John, dropped out of school in 2010, when David was 13 and John, 14. Kavitha is ashamed to share the blame: the two boys had no interest in school, and she had no interest in paying high fees when it was a continuous struggle to feed the family and keep a roof over their heads.
Now, a year later, she is accepting the help of CRY (Child Rights and You), whose enrolment drive in several areas around Bangalore is already showing results. Since May 2011, CRY volunteers have collected statistics and details of students who dropped out, with the reasons behind their doing so; identified nearby government schools or anganwadis where children can be enrolled; and assisted in the process of re-enrolment.
The basis of the drive is the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (or Right to Education Act, or RTE), which was passed in 2009. The Act made education free and compulsory for those between 6 and 14, and decreed that there should be no donation or capitation fees, no interview of the child or parent before admission, no failing or expulsion of a child, and no requirement of passing a board examination until completion of elementary education.
The real reason
Despite the Act, many children don't attend school.
“The authorities need to look at the real reasons for dropouts,” says Thangamma Monnappa, who leads CRY's Volunteer Advocacy Groups in Bangalore. “Children, even in cities as ours, have poor access to schools, many of which lack basic facilities. Children are also discouraged by a fear of failure, corporal punishment, or discrimination, and many children drop out to take care of younger siblings.”
Volunteers collect details of dropouts, check out the location of nearby government schools and speak to the principal and administrators. “When the school knows we're interested, they're interested,” adds Naga Yasodhar, a volunteer. “We also try to identify key members of the community, those who know the area and the people well and are willing to act as a bridge between the community and volunteers.”
With this information, volunteers find ways to make children interested in school, and convince parents.
“An integral part of the process is the follow-up,” says Ms. Monnappa. “We need to make sure that students are staying in schools.”
David and John re-enrolled a few weeks ago after continued efforts of CRY volunteers and their mother.