The number of out-of-school children, at 1,156, might be the lowest this year; mainstreaming of such students to begin in July

The preliminary findings of a survey have pointed to a significant dip in the number of out-of-school children in Chennai region.

The number stands at 1,156 compared to 2,061 last June. However, the surveyors are not taking this near halving of the numbers seriously, and are trying to ascertain if some children have been overlooked.

Preliminary estimates of the survey conducted by Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), a government programme that targets universal education in the age group of six to 14 years, point at a reduction in areas such as Triplicane, where the number was over 300 in April 2013 (it stands at 206 this year).

Among the ten zones in the district, Triplicane has the highest number of estimated out-of-school children and Adyar the lowest, at 72. More than 1,000 habitations in the city have been covered in the survey. “The number has reduced this year. We are verifying yet again. Block resource teacher educators (BRTEs) are tracking children not covered in the survey again,” said an official.

“We have to confirm if the reduction in the number is correct. The BRTEs will study the impact of the Lok Sabha elections on the survey this year,” said the official. The process of enrolling all out-of-school children will begin in July.

Reasons for dropping out

Sources said a majority of students point to lack of interest in going to school as a reason for dropping out.

Some other reasons cited include lack of guidance and awareness, pressures of caring for younger siblings and earning a livelihood for the family.

The category of out-of-school children includes dropouts and children from migrant families. The mother tongue of a majority of out-of-school children identified this year is Tamil.

Enrolment drive under way

An SSA official, however, said a drive to enrol students in schools is currently under way and will continue till the end of the month. Generally, the annual survey to identify out-of-school children is conducted in April.

“This year, we will get accurate figures only by the end of the month,” the official said, adding, many teachers had been on election duty in April, when the survey is usually conducted.

Once identified, out-of-school children will be mainstreamed, and enrolled in an age-appropriate class in residential or non-residential special training centres. 

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2010, mandates that all children in the 6-14 age group be enrolled in school, and in the case of drop-outs, be admitted in the age-appropriate class.  

Areas including Periamet, Triplicane, George Town, T. Nagar and Egmore continue to have relatively high number of dropouts, said an official of SSA.

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