Karnataka aims to bring back all children to schools. Will it succeed?

Written by: Maitreyee Boruah
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Karnataka, April 15: In a novel attempt to provide education to all children, Karnataka is all set to start a massive campaign-Shale Kade Nanna Nade (My Walk Towards School)-from April 23 onwards.

The campaign, the brainchild of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), is targeted at underprivileged children who are either dropouts or have never been to schools.

school children

In order to speed up the campaign, the commission recently hosted a meeting at its office premises in Bengaluru. The meeting saw participation by members from a host of NGOs from various parts of the state working in the field of child rights and protection.

The campaign will kick-start with the identification of these children from every nook and cranny of Karnataka and thereafter enroll them in schools.

"Let us all come together and fulfill our dream of sending all children to schools. It is sad that education department has failed in its task to ensure education to all children in the state. Let us prove them wrong by bringing all children to schools," said Kripa Alva, chairperson of KSCPCR, presiding over the meeting on April 13.

"First we need to identify and enroll children in schools to kick-start the campaign," she added.

Children to school

Since there is no statistics to quantify the number of children who are out of school, the campaign becomes gigantic. Child rights activists say it is not easy to identify these children.

"A city like Bengaluru has a huge migrant and floating population. Moreover, we can't enroll these children in Kannada medium schools, as most of them don't speak Kannada. Once the children are admitted in schools, we need to make sure they remain in schools and don't dropout," says P Lakshapathi, executive director of Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), an NGO.

The participants at the meeting raised the issue of retention of children in schools and stressed on the need of capacity-building for the successful execution of the campaign. Most of the out of school children are identified as kids who are either from slum areas, children of poor migrants like construction workers and child labourers.

"We should have proper bridge school programmes available for these children," said an activist.

Bridge schools are places where school dropouts, mostly child labourers are provided education on an ad hoc basis. The idea of bridge schools is to help underprivileged children to join mainstream schools. 

Activists fear that lakhs of children in the state are out of schools. "If in North Bengaluru only we have around 10,000 kids who are out of schools, imagine the number of children who are out of schools from across the state. It could be in lakhs," said an activist, who didn't wish to be named.

"We need proper planning and infrastructure in place to start such an ambitious plan. Otherwise it might fail midway," he added.

The KSCPCR is planning to host street plays and bike rallies across the state to sensitise civil society about the importance of sending all children to schools.

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