Being able to attend school is a privilege. We may not think so, but read what these kids have to say…

Waking up on a Monday morning and choosing not to go to school is a privilege many children overlook. In Tamil Nadu alone, there are over 1,93,418 children to whom schools are something they can only dream of, owing to reasons like inaccessibility, lack of facilities, poverty or basic lack of awareness that education is every child's fundamental right.

Representing that large number of children lacking access to quality education were six youngsters from various parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka addressed the media in a ‘press conference' organised by CRY (Child Rights and You). Ironically held on Children's Day, here are the stories of the six children who are hoping to make a difference in their lives and to others around them.

These are just testaments to the situation not just in the State but across the country as well. CRY along with its partner organisations, is working towards drawing the government's attention to these issues and enabling the children to exercise their right to education. CRY is advocating for a school every one kilometre, for an increase in the fund allocation to education in the government budget and utilisation of these funds efficiently.

But as general public, what you can do is to spread awareness about the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act and ensure that children in your neighbourhood are making use of it. You can also volunteer with CRY and keep an eye on government schools in your area and ensure that quality education along with quality infrastructure is made accessible.

Education statistic in Tamil Nadu:

* Literacy rate has increased from 62.66 per cent in 1991 to 73.47 per cent in 2001.

* Illiteracy rate is 26.55 and 39 percent for men and women respectively.

* Out of the total children not in schools, 70.34 per cent have never been enrolled in schools.

* Between 1991-92 to 2005-06, the enrolment in Government primary schools has come down from 8.2 million to 6.4 million.

* According to the Department of Education, 57 per cent children at Std X and 76 per cent at higher secondary level are dropping out from school due to various socio-economic conditions.

* According to Tamil Nadu Primary Education Teachers association, more than 500 government primary schools have closed down in the last five years.

NAGAVIJAY from Thovakadu village, Ramanathapuram district

My mother is the sole bread winner for my family of five. Doing odd-jobs, she managed to put me in school. But my school is more than three kilometres away from home, and there is no public transport. Everyday I had to walk six kilometres. in bad weather it was impossible. So I dropped out of school. For two years I did not go to school. Then Rural Workers Development Society, a community-based organisation and a CRY partner, coaxed me to return to school. I go to school now but transportation is still a problem.CHITRA from Kadamanarawu village,

Kodaikanal Taluk

I have eight siblings, but, I was the only one who went to school. After Std V, many tribal children like me discontinued as there was no high school nearby. The closest one was 16 km away. We have the option of enrolling in a private residential school in Palani or Kodaikanal, which is expensive or joining a government tribal residential school, which I did. But the food there was bad. And the teachers taught for hardly a few hours. There was no point in studying. I want to study and become a doctor.NAGARAJ and MUNIRAJ from Gulati village, Krishnagiri district

We belong to the Irula community. The access to our school is difficult so teachers do not come to our school. The closest school is two kilometres away but it is a Telugu medium school. Our village is located near the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka borders and we speak Tamil and Kannada. Our parents see no point in us pursuing education in a language that we do not understand and hence ask us to stay back and help them rear cattle. When I grow up, I want to build schools and hospitals for my community.PANDIAN from Mandavayikupam village, Villupuram district

I have to walk four kilometres every day to go to school. Private transport is expensive. The government has issued us free bus passes but no buses that ply here. I dropped out of school this year, but SOHES, a community-based organisation and a CRY partner, put me back in school but this is not the case with my friends who are still unable to have access to schools.PAPPI from Kolar

district, Karnataka

My father used to work in the mines at Kolar and hence was able to afford the education of my two sisters. But since the mines closed ten years back, we have been struggling financially. I had to drop out of school. The closest Karnataka government school is three and a half kilometres away.