"If we do not send them to work we cannot run the house. The income supplements the household budget," says Zuleeqa Begum, mother of Riyaz.

Mohd. Riyaz, studying in class VII at a government school in the old city, skips the afternoon session at his school to work at an embroidery workshop. After working for six hours a day, he manages to earn Rs. 400 a week.

He is not the only boy to adopt this practice. Many children studying in government schools in the old city move out of the school after the lunch break.

They try to balance the studies and work, but miserably fail in the attempt.

In most of the cases, it is the economic conditions back home that pull out many from schools for half of the day.

“If we do not send them to work we cannot run the house. The income supplements the household budget,” says Zuleeqa Begum, mother of Riyaz.

Incentives of the government like midday meal scheme have not helped in containing the child labour. Earnings seem to matter more for these children along with studies. Though school authorities are not willing to come on record many of them admit to it. “It is a common practice, if we act strict they drop out of the school altogether,” says a school teacher on condition of anonymity.

The problem is quite rampant particularly in schools that are in slum areas. Here many of the children head to embroidery, mechanic and tailoring workshops. Ironically, once the students get habituated to work they forgo the studies and turn into school dropouts at a later stage.

It is one of the reasons for high strength of girls over boys in many of the co-education high schools in the old city. “It is a common trend that once a boy starts attending work after skipping the school, the next year he will drop out from the school,” explains the principal of a government school.

The forthcoming Ramazan festival will see more children skipping the school to head to work. “Many of the parents are petty traders and require hands to assist them,” says a government school teacher at Tadban.

A decline of 20 to 30 per cent in attendance is registered in many schools during the fasting month. And it dips further as the Eid nears.

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