Many Delhi school kids drop out for work, marriage (Nov 14 is Children’s Day in India)

By Prathiba Raju, IANS
Sunday, November 14, 2010

NEW DELHI - The right to education act might have made education compulsory for children in the 6-14 age group, but very few government schools in Delhi seem to be aware of this as they have been allowing students to drop out on grounds like work, marriage, long absences and non-payment of fees.

This was revealed by a Right To Information (RTI) plea, which also said only two out of 28 zones under the directorate of education in the capital could give information on government school dropouts.

RTI activist Manish Bhatnagar says when he sought information on school dropouts in 2009-10, the divisional officers of the state education department didn’t have any such details.

Then he applied RTI to the directorate of education to know the number of school dropouts, but out of the 28 zones across Delhi he only got responses from the northwest and outer zones. Information from the rest was not provided.

“Even from the two zones, the plight of school dropouts was startling. The information given showed that mostly girls studying in Classes 8 and 9 were granted school leaving certificates (SLC) as they had to get married while some institutions granted the same to boys as they had to work,” Bhatnagar said.

The RTI findings reveal that the UK Rajakiya Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Daryapur Kalan, Delhi, granted SLC to a student, Kanchan of Class 5, mentioning that the family was shifting back to their home state of Bihar for labour work and she was needed to support the family in the work.

The same school replied that the administration had granted SLC to a student, Sonam of Class 10, as she was about to get married.

As per the Government Co-Ed Secondary School, C-block, Metro Vihar, Holambi Kalan, in the present session they have provided the SLC to Class 5 student Rakesh, who has been working and has been absent for a long time.

Almost all schools of northwest Delhi have answered that the maximum number of students dropped out due to long absence and non-payment of dues.

Rakesh Singhar, national secretary of the child rights NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), told IANS, “The status of Delhi government schools is no doubt like this. Government school teachers and officers are less aware of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE Act 2009).”

The RTE Act states that every child in the age group of 6-14 will be provided elementary education in an age appropriate classroom in the vicinity of his or her neighbourhood.

The act also states that any cost that prevents a child from accessing school will be borne by the state which shall have the responsibility of enrolling the child as well as ensuring attendance and completion of eight years of schooling. No child shall be denied admission for want of documents; no child shall be turned away if the admission cycle in the school is over and no child shall be asked to take an admission test, as per the rule.

Singhar also said in Delhi that only six percent of them were aware of RTE. Many government school teachers, principals, MCD officials and lower level district education officers are not aware of RTE.

“When crores of rupees are spent by the Indian government to eradicate illiteracy, in schools in the outer district, particularly Narela, in Classes 8 and 9 the school dropout rate of girls is high as all of them get married. When we ask the principal why they grant SLC on this ground, they can offer no reasons,” Bhatnagar added.

Singhar said: “Often when we rescue children who are being exploited as labourers, we discover that they are school dropouts. This is a major problem but the government is less concerned.”

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