Chennai: In a bid to get its child labourers and drop-outs back to school, Krishnagiri, one of the most backward districts in Tamil Nadu, has launched a unique effort, using ingenuous software. It helps the District Collector keep track of every student here.
Every time a child, even from the remotest village, fails to turn up in class, a red signal pops up on the Collectors computer. The panchayat concerned is alerted and the child is brought back to school after ascertaining the problems, which made him a drop out.
The software back2school has helped the district administration put 7,600 of the 8,867 drop-outs tracked so far back in schools.
The effort involves 337 Village Volunteer Force (VVF) members, child volunteers, panchayat presidents and headmasters of the 1,700-odd schools in the district.
Representatives of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the UNICEF have also pitched in as part of the national child labour prevention project.
The VVF members visit the schools once a month and collect data about students missing from the classroom. The volunteers are picked from the same village so he or she is familiar about the childs history. They find out the reason why the child has not attended class and help resolve the problem, Krishnagiri District Collector Santosh Babu said, adding we hope to achieve 100% attendance by next year.
Collecting data had proved a massive task with VVF and SSA members who had to locate every child labour from the district.
The software comprises not just the history of each school-going child below 14 years, who had dropped out, but also links all the departments concerned like the Tehsildar's office, the district police and administration, particularly the revenue officer, said B Veeraputhiran, managing director of Arbiter Infotech Pvt Ltd, who helped conceive the software.
The responses of the parents as to why their children were working can also be tracked by the Collector. To get their children back, we have helped clear loans, arranged for medical treatments, supplied milch animals, vendor carts and house pattas and loans and even built houses under the Indira Gandhi," said Babu.
Undiyalnatham, a hamlet in Krishnagiri, had foxed the administration. Twenty-three of its children remained missing for a good part of the year. But they mysteriously appeared every year to participate in the local Keeramman temple festival in the village.
When the Veppanapalli Panchayat made enquiries, it found that the children, belonging to the Irular tribe and hailing from the village, worked as watchmen in Andhra Pradesh. In fact, this is their livelihood for generations.
The 23 children have now been enrolled into a primary school. They are the first generation of the tribe getting formal education.
Children in Ekalnatham, about 25 kms from Krishnagiri, are not so lucky. There was a high drop-out rate in the only primary school here. The teacher, a woman, chose to trek up the 5-km hillock on which the village was perched just once or twice a week. She was sacked and a male teacher appointed in her place. But new teacher too has put in irregular attendance, said P Ganesha Murthy, the UNICEF consultant.
In Bettapalli, about 85 kms from Krishnagiri, women in the village have never gone to school. Instead, they roll out beedis for a living. The elders in the Muslim populated village refuse to send their girls to the school where men teach and where there is no Urdu medium.
Source: i4d and Indian Express