The State government on Wednesday told the Karnataka High Court that a comprehensive survey will be conducted from November 13 to 17 to track out-of-school children (OOSC) in preparation for achieving its goal that “no child in the age group of 6 to 14 is out of school”.
The government gave the details of its plan to a Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna, during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition suo motu initiated by the court on a newspaper report about children out of school despite a law in place for compulsory education.
Government counsel R. Devdas told the Bench that the survey would be conducted at school point as well as in around 90 lakh households in all vulnerable clusters, and the survey would not be limited to tracking missing children in non-vulnerable areas. A pilot survey has been conducted at Dibbur cluster in Chickballapur district and Channasandra cluster in Bangalore (South), and analysis of data is in progress, he pointed out.
The court was also told that a software had been developed under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) for tracking OOSC and the software would soon be loaded on its website —http://ssakarnataka.gov.in— to receive suggestions on refinement of OOSC tracing, tracking, retrieval and mainstreaming. The highlight of the software would be that it provided a platform for public vigilance on OOSC as any one who noticed such children could upload that information through the software so that the authorities concerned could act swiftly.
Meanwhile, the government told the Bench that to track children dropping out of schools quickly, the criteria for treating a child as “school dropout” had been changed by reducing the number of days of absence from attending school. Now, a child would be treated as “school dropout” in cases where children remain continuously absent for seven days without prior permission from the authorities instead of the 60 days of absence.
Mr. Devdas said that an inter-department high-powered coordination committee, headed by Chief Secretary, had been constituted to review, monitor and issue directions to implement the law to ensure that no child stayed out of school. The committee comprises principal secretaries of 14 departments; commissioner and additional commissioners of Public Instruction; State Project Coordinator of SSA; Padma Saranga Panu, professor, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore; Maya Menon of the Teachers’ Foundation, Bangalore; chairperson, Karnataka Child Rights Commission, and State Project Director, Mahila Samakya, Bangalore.
While appreciating the seriousness shown by the State on the issue of OOSC, the Bench directed the government to invite court-appointed amicus curiae Aditya Sondhi, Kathyayini Chamaraj of Civic Bangalore, an intervener, and advocates Jayna Kothari, representing Azim Premji Foundation, and Clifton D’Rozario for all the meetings of the high-powered committee.
The Bench, while adjourning further hearing till November 18, hoped that the high-powered committee would look into all the suggestions made by amicus curiae and others.