Strategies to bring out-of-school children, most of whom are migrants, under the umbrella of education are being tried out in Gujarat

Thousands of children are still waiting to taste the fruits promised by the Right to Education Act in Gujarat. A latest independent survey on out-of-school children shows there are over 83,000 such children in the State. The highest number of such children are in the tribal dominated Banaskantha (8613) followed by highly industrialised Vadodara (4725), then Ahmedabad (3,566), Kheda (3254) and Kuchch (3254). Dohad has 3000, Jamnagar 2874 with 2448 in Patan. Tapi has the least number of out-of-school children with just 278, followed by Valsad at 446 and Anand at 778. There is great heterogeneity among these and can include children living or working in slums, on the streets, on railway platforms, along railway lines, on construction sites, caught in domestic work, bonded in child labour, engaged in cattle grazing and several other categories.

The State is trying to address the issue by adopting measures such as regional language schools, special hostels and training programmes.

“We run primary schools in Oriya, Telugu, Marathi and Sindhi for the migrant population who contribute substantially to out-of-school children,” Sanjay Prasad, Principal Secretary Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, told The Hindu. This has been done to ensure that Gujarati is not imposed on anyone and children are not uncomfortable in schools.

As part of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, steps are being taken to ensure all children are in school right from Class 1 and learn the language they want to. The teachers are chosen from within their community. And if there are any drop outs who are to be integrated into the mainstream, they are given special courses for three months, six months and even up to one year to make them class appropriate and join the mainstream schooling.

The problem arises in the urban areas where pockets like the salt workers, work in seasons and often keep shifting. The State government has now come up with a plan to open special hostels where students from Class IX onwards can stay free of cost even if the families migrate. There are also plans to start mobile schools which will move along with the migrating population anywhere in the State to reduce the number of drop outs.

The State has also started a helpline for tracking out-of-school where reports of abandoned and such children can be lodged. The officials of the Education Department instantly reach the spot and bring him or her into the rolls, Mr Manoj Aggarwal, State Project Director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Commissioner Mid Day Meal scheme, said.

Keywords: RTE Act