Special Correspondent

Bangalore: The Education Department is starting a massive training programme for 6.5 lakh people at the panchayat level across the State from February 15 to ensure community participation in the process of bringing all children to school, said Vandita Sharma, project director of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

Speaking at a workshop organised by the International Labour Organisation on the role of teachers in elimination of child labour here on Thursday, she said that plans were already being made to have another round of training in July. The larger community needs to be convinced that it is a “vibrant player” in ensuring educational access to all, she added.

Though the number of out-of-school children had gone down from 10 lakh in 2000 to about one lakh in 2007, those who had remained out of the ambit of SSA programmes were “a matter of serious concern”, said Ms. Sharma.

It was important to ask why it was happening despite initiatives like Asha Kirana, residential schools targeting migrant children, and Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV) for girl children in 61 educationally-backward blocks, she added. SSA had sent a proposal to the Centre to open more of KGBVs in the coming year, she added. The department had recruited 6,000 teachers who will be reporting to work on February 1, said Ms. Sharma.

Methodology needed

Former education minister and chairman of Legislative Council B.K. Chandrashekar, who inaugurated the workshop, said that the phenomenon of dropouts should be studied and a suitable methodology evolved to stop it. ILO studies in Bidar and Chamrajnagar had thrown up shocking statistics on dropouts, he said. Teachers cannot solve all the problems of society such as child labour, but they can play a leadership role, especially in rural areas, he said.

Niranjan Aradhya of the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, argued that the State should continue to be the principal provider of education and civil society groups should only play a supplementary role rather than try to take over the reins.

Problems faced

Teachers who participated in a discussion spoke of the problems they faced in enumerating out-of-school children and bringing them to school. Seasonal labour migration and parental resistance, they said, were two big impediments. There had been instances of parents asking teachers if they would compensate for the loss of family income if the children were taken off work and sent to school, they said. One of them suggested the setting up of a task force to monitor dropouts.