Special Correspondent

Alliance of district administration, NGOs and society suggested

VELLORE: P. Jegadish Gandhi, founder director of the Vellore Institute of Development Studies and Asian Consultant to the Abolition of Bonded Labour Awareness Campaign, has called for an integrated approach, through an alliance of the district administration, non-governmental organisations and society, to make the district, as well as Tamil Nadu, child labour-free by 2007.

In a statement released on the eve of the Anti-Child Labour Day being observed on June 12, Dr. Gandhi said Vellore was a frontline district in the elimination of child labour ever since it started its innovative Child Labour Abolition Support Scheme in 1995. The aim was to disengage child labourers from hazardous and non-hazardous occupations and impart them primary education for three years, before bringing them to regular schools.

Success story

In 1995, the district administration identified 15,421 child labourers (7,511 in hazardous and 7,910 in non-hazardous industries), mostly in beedi, match and leather industries. Over the decade, the administration had rescued 13,000 children and enrolled them in 206 special schools. Of them, 8,590 were continuing their education.

One hundred and one special schools were closed since there were no child labourers to be admitted. A total of 4,410 children studied in the rest of the schools. The special school children were being taught under the `joy of learning' methodology through songs, dances and plays. Teachers were being trained periodically by resource persons. The vocational instructors were imparting functional literacy to enable the children to make a living after education. The success of the Vellore model attracted the attention of the Duchess of Kent, a member of the United Nations Children's Education Fund (UNICEF). A team of Japanese labour union leaders, who visited the special schools at and around Vellore in May 2005, said they were impressed with the progress.