Our Efforts and Experiences I Part – IOIn all the civilized societies all over the world system of child labour is condemned as a social evil but the fact is the system is prevelent on a large scale in a country like India. It is noticed that, in recent times our society is showing some signs of awareness about this social evil. This is the first part of the article giving details about the efforts undertaken in and around Ahmedpur for eradication of this system.
Since past 12 years I am working on various issues related to rural areas through Peoplels Institute of Rural Development and Rachanatmac Sangharsha Samiti (Maharashtra). To generate employment for farm labour through lemployment guarantee schemelis our sustained and major activity. While working with farm labour during 1988-90 I was exposed to the issue of Child Labour. When I saw the children working as child or boned Labour in agriculture, I could realise the intensity of this issue. Agriculture is a main source of employment for labour in rural areas.
Child Labour working in farms, or as a bonded labour or as a herdsman has an adverse impact on the employment of adult people. When dialogue was initialed with farm labour on this issue.
They narrated that when child works as a Child Labour he/she actually supports the family. They feel that child provides something to eat to a family. This is a general feeling among the rural masses about Child Labour. The common understanding among this labour class is more working hands means more income for a family.
But this calls still could not decide, whose hands these should be? They are not understanding that small hands are depriving of big hands from employment. The difficult life they are living and ignorance of these farm labour is responsible for such type of their attitude towards their own children. It made us realised that there is a need of structural changes in the society and we resolved to work for structural changes. In the society and we resolved to work for structural changes. In the initial period neither we had any plan nor a concrete stralgy to deal with the situation. We decide to have a dialogue with farm labour on this issue. Already we were discussing with them about employment minimum wages, equal wages for equal work, laws for the profection of a farm labour etc. while discussing these issue we always had positive attitude and approach.
We used to tell them sending children to work means depriving of them the apportunity to go to school. If a child will not to go to school, he/she will grow as illiterate person. Valnerable for all sorts of exploitation please send them to school. It will be better if they remain unemployed after getting e ducation. We were always insisting that they should send their children to school. Our perception was if children will go to school then automatically no. of child labour will be reduced which will result in generating some employment for Addults. After sometime, we realised that, what ever efforts we may do, it will never be possible to aduilt all the children from this class to school. This realisation directed us to conceive a programme called “Education programme for child Labour” Immediately its implementation was started. In the process of implementation of this nonformal education programme for child Labour, in depth thinking was going on, on this issue. At this juncture, TDH and YUVA took the initiative and started “Campaign against Child Labour” on 14th Nov. 1992. Since the first meeting we are associated with this campaign and working for it. Though we have an ambition to work for eradication of a system of Child Labour we are aware of the scope and magnitude of the problem and our own limitations. Therefore; based on our own assessment of our capacities we have decided to implement following programmes;
This programme is initialed with an objective to provide opportunity to those Children of below 14 age to get education, who could not go to school or who are school dropouts. And due this reason they work as Child Labour. This programme will enable them to learn 3 Rs. And may be make them capable to appear for Std Il or Std VII examinations. They may be become a part of main streme education. In a period of three years 20 education centres were of ended in 20 villages. Around 600 to 800 children were enrolled in these centres. Selected children were prepared for Std IV examination. They were motivated and supported in this venture. In the period 1992-93 — 1994-95 183 children appeared for Std IV examination. Out of which 122 passed the same and from those who passed 68% were girls. Along with those who appeared for examination, 139 other children joined the main streme of education this is our achievement. It could be possible due to purposeful effort.
A:1 100% enrollment in schools.In all the 20 villages a list of children in the age group 542 to 7 is prepared every year. The purpose is, they should be enrolled in schools. Non-formal education centre co-ordinator and village education committee fully participate in this endearour.
A:2 Controlling dropout rate from primary schools.Due to various reasons children enrolled in primary school leave the school. These school dropouts work as Child Labour. To stop this process, school drop outs are surveyed, their list is prepared and efforts are made to send them school. But we could not succeed in our efforts.
A:3 Child education committee.Child education committees are constituted at village level. The committee is comprised of Co-ordinator non-formal education centre. Headmaster/Teacher from a school. Some youth and some prominent individuals from a village. This committee is responsible for 100% enrollment of children in schools, controlling the rate of school drop outs, sending Child Labour to non-formal education centre and implementation of campaign against Child Labour at village level. It is revealed that 60 to 70% of the committees are not functioning effectively.
A:4 Village level campaign against child Labour : Under this programme, village level meetings are organised to generate awareness on the issue of child Labour. In the meeting the issue is discussed and remedies are suggested for removal of this system. And people are requested to join the compaign. This programme has generated some awareness in village. People have started discussion on this issue. Wall writings are also done, so that people should read the slogaus and should think about it.
Initially to take care of children of working women, creches were opened in four villages. With a support from social welfare Department. This creche programme helped in improving attendance of children in schools. This result made us realised that this programme. Can become a important to for controlling incidence of Child Labour. Since 1987-88 organisation is running creches in Wanjarwada and Malegaon villages of Ahmedpur tahsil. It followed by opening two more units in Thodga and Gagdal villages. A survey revealed that precentage of school going children is more in these villages as compare to other villages where there are no creches.
Also it is revealed that percentage of child Labour is comparatively less in there village. As it is proved that this programme is a supportive one in controlling a system of child labour. In the last year 10 units of creches are opened in Chakur Tahsil. Two child development workers are appointed in each unit and the timing of creches is same the timing of a school. Around 20-25 children are enrolled in each unit. Total 240 children are admitted in 10 units. It is a general practice that, elder child takes care of his/her siblings in the family. Therefore; these elder children cannot attend schools. These children after some days work as child labour. The objective of this programme is freeing the child from taking care of siblings from their family and they should get an opportunity to go to school. At present this programme is implemented on experimental level.
Right from the beginning we are actively involved in this campaign from village to state to national level. Under this campaign on village level 14th nov. is celebrated as Childrenis Day (Balak Din) and 30th April Day against system of child labour. On these occasion, rallies, cycle rallies, seminars, camps and conference are organised. In these events along with child Labour adult male and female farm labours also participate. Tours, picnics, sports meats and awareness programmes are organised for child Labours as a part of the celebration. Child labour from our region had participated in state and national level events and expressed their feelings and concerus. In Jan 1996 Peoplels Institute of Rural Development was assigned to organise Marathwada level campaign against system of child Labour. We could organise the same successfully. Through this campaign we could reach to 21 Tahsils of 7 districts.
We endeavored to educate thousands of people about the problem of child labour. One can ask a question of what is the achievement of this campaign? We tried to educate those who donot recognise this as a burning issue. It is true that it will take some time to make these people aware of this issue. But due to this campaign, people have at least started thinking of this issue. And we can say that, when people start thinking about any issue, it becomes a first step for organising peoplels movement on that issue. Whatever programmes we have implement for eradication of system of child labour, they were of preventive nature. While implementing these proframme we encounter the problems like; nonavilability of capable and active co-ordinator/child development workers, non-cooperation of people, lack of follow up strategy, indifference of government officials and their unsympathetic attitude and lack of training on various levels etc. But our plus point is, our sustained efforts and public contact definitely remulted in mobilising co-operation not only from voluntary organisation but from pleple from different strata of society also.