Lack of funds flow is threatening to jeopardise the functioning of over 300 schools run by the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) in seven districts in the State.

NCLP sources say that the teachers and other staff in Virudhunagar, Namakkal, Krishnagiri, Salem, Tiruchi, Vellore and Chennai districts have not received their salaries for the last six months. “Our teachers have not received the salary since May this year,” an official here said.

Virudhunagar district alone has 41 schools in which over 1,100 rescued child labourers are under-going a bridge course. Besides salaries to over 100 teachers, funds for monthly stipend to students and noon-meals have not been disbursed. The monthly stipend of Rs. 100 is credited to the individual student’s account and handed over to them when they are admitted to mainstream schools.

Sources said the annual funds from the Union Ministry of Labour have not been allotted this March. The schools are run either by NCLP Societies formed by the district administration or by non-Government organisations. The teachers who have not received the monthly salary of Rs. 1,500 have also been burdened with debts for around Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000 each.

“They have borrowed provisions from the near-by grocery shops to continue supply of noon-meals for the last six months. They have been doing this to retain the students in the schools. Otherwise they feared that they would lose their jobs. Some of them have even pledged their jewels. Now, the teachers are being pulled up by the shop-keepers for non-payment for so long,” the sources added.

A senior NCLP officer said that if the trend continued for a couple of months more, the project would collapse defeating the very purpose of the project of arresting child labour. “We have succeeded in bringing down child labourers over the years. In the last three years alone at least 15 of our students (rescued child labourers) have joined Engineering colleges after passing out of the bridge course,” he said.

Stating that NCLP schools had an indispensable role in rehabilitating child labourers, the official said that besides providing the bridge course, it is at this school that the children are motivated to pursue studies and give up work at school-going age.When contacted, the district Collector, Sigy Thomas Vaidhyan, said that the State government, a couple of days back, directed her to divert funds from some other sources to sustain running of the schools. “This is not for paying the salary for the teachers, but to run the schools, including serving the noon-meals,” she said. The district administration was yet to decide on from where the funds would be diverted to NCLP.