Uncertainty over education of rescued child workers

Rehabilitating and facilitating mainstream education to child workers, who are rescued from work places, has hit a roadblock as the Central government said in March this year that the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) will be “subsumed/merged” with the Samagra Shiksha Scheme of the Ministry of Education.

According to communications from the Ministry of Education last month, the detailed guidelines and procedures to merge the two schemes are being worked out in consultation with the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the State governments will continue to identify and rescue the child workers. The children rescued or identified as child workers will be mainstreamed through Samagra Shiksha either directly to schools or through special training centres operated in the district through the Samagra Shiksha.

Official sources said Coimbatore and Tiruppur were among the 15 districts in the State where NCLP, a 100% Central government sponsored scheme, was operational. In the last five years, 47,355 children were helped to join mainstream education after rehabilitation at the special centres of NCLP in the State.

In 2020-2021, 27 special centres operated under NCLP in Coimbatore and Tiruppur districts had 465 children. “We have not opened any new centre this year though a new academic year will start soon because the NCLP is now merged with Samagra Shiksha,” an official said.

Almost 90% of the child workers or children identified in the two districts were from families of migrant workers who come from other States.

“Language is a major problem for these children. They cannot join regular schools immediately. Further, the schools are not willing to admit these children immediately after they are rescued from work places,” the official added.

In a memorandum to the State government, the Tamil Nadu NCLP Employees Association said that apart from helping several children continue school and higher education, the scheme also provided employment to a large number of people who worked as teachers, cooks, or assitants at the special centres.

About ₹3.6 lakh of wages to these workers and ₹2.30 lakh that was paid as monthly stipend to the rehabilitated children for the last two years were yet to be paid by the Central government.

“The scheme has two components - rescue of child workers and rehabilitating them. Only if there is a proper system to rehabilitate the children, enforcement can be effective. By merging the two schemes, the government is looking only at the rehabilitation part,” the official said. The association has appealed to the State government to take over the scheme and implement it. The government should look at sourcing funds for the scheme through international organisations such as ILO or UNICEF, it suggested.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 12:13:10 am |