It is not just the need to make ends meet but multiple factors like alcoholic or ailing fathers, single and struggling mothers, and siblings who need to be taken care of, that keep some children outside school gates. Many such erstwhile child labourers joined students from various city schools in insisting the right to education for all children, through an awareness march on Wednesday.

Observing Anti-child Labour Day on June 12, around 800 students from various schools lent their voices in favour of their peers outside school, labouring at homes, factories and petty shops. The awareness march was flagged off at Khadi Kraft near Tiruchi Junction by collector Jayashree Muralidharan and deputy mayor Ashik Meera who walked with the children till the collectorate. Government officials joined in the pledge taken there, to eradicate child labour in all forms, respect and recognise child rights and affirm that no child below 14 would be sent to work.

Child labourers and dropouts rescued by CHEERS that runs the National Child Labour Elimination Project (NCLEP), are enrolled in special schools for a particular period till they are mainstreamed in regular schools under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme. As many as 19 students who passed out of these special schools were given assistance of Rs. 6,000 each to continue their education. Three students were also given medical assistance, High-scorers in tenth and plus two exams were felicitated.

Participants included students from St. John’s Vestry, Seva Sangam, St. Anne’s, St. Philomena, Govenment Adidravidar School and R.C. Higher Secondary School.