The RTE Act of 2009 states that all children within the age group of 6-14 must receive free and compulsory education. Though most children today are part of the educational mainstream, many are still left out – deprived of an education because of poverty, and often forced into labour. We need to identify such children and bring them into the formal educational system. A recent survey conducted in Kolhapur district revealed an astonishing fact. It is truly a matter of pride that of the 1247 children belonging to ragpickers’ families, 1243 had been enrolled and were attending school regularly. The remaining four have also been enrolled since, in a municipal school in Kolhapur.
Ekti, an organisation in Kolhapur that works with destitute women and children, had submitted a letter to Dr Amit Saini, Collector of Kolhapur, outlining concerns related to ragpickers in the district. In the letter, Ekti requested a survey of all children in the 6-14 age group belongng to ragpicker families. The Collector asked Dr Kunal Khemnar, the chief executive officer of the Zilla Parishad (district council), to take this forward. A survey was carried out under the supervision of Dr Khemnar and Subhash Chowgule, Chief Officer, Primary Education. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan team conducted the survey in the course of a day.
The survey was planned to be conducted in the six ragpicker communities in the area. Accordingly, on 29 November 2016, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan team visited the six locations in Kolhapur city where these communities lived — Pethvadgaon, Gadmudshingi, Porley, Vadnagey, Rajendranagar and Vicharemal — and identified a total of 1247 children from 1620 ragpicker families. The happy outcome of the survey was that 1243 of these children were found to be already attending school regularly. Their families’ abject poverty did not seem to dilute these children’s determination to get an education. Much of the credit goes to the parents, who eked out a bare living collecting and selling scrap but had resisted putting their children to work alongside them, ensuring that they went to school instead. Most parents and guardians surveyed strongly believed in the dictum that “Children have to be educated, as only an education can give them a future.”
The survey also identified four children who had not been enrolled in school, despite being six years old or more. All were from the Rajendranagar area, and were subsequently enrolled in the Dr S Radhakrishnan Municipal School. The four children not in school were were enrolled that same day, and they now attend school regularly.
As a member of the ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan’ team, I partcipated in this survey along with BB Patil, Vidya Verma, Santosh Dhavle, Maruti Jadhav, Shakeela Mujawar and representatives of Ekti. We received help from several cluster heads, school teachers and principals.
Blog: Amrapali Devekar, gender equality coordinator for Kolhapur District and samatadoot for samata.shiksha
Translation and editing: samata.shiksha team