Till August 2012, ECC could enrol around 600 children in schools across Pune city. However, it is observed that only 400 are attending schools regularly. Why are these 200 children still away from school? Here's a quick analysis by ECC:
1. A child of 6 or 7 years age cannot travel/walk/ride to school on its own. It needs some escort for daily commute. Preferably, this escort should be the child's parents, which is hardly possible in case of labourers working on daily wages. (Forget about child's basic psychological need of being with mother or father during its initial exposure to external world!)
Statistics: Out of 400, less than 10 children are being escorted to school by parents. Around 100 children have to walk to the school on their own or in groups.
2. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Education Dept (Shikshan Mandal) of PMC have committed to provide transport facility to children in question. However, the management and logistics part (finding a local van or rickshaw, identifying and verifying needy children, supervising daily transport activity, actual payments and reimbursements, etc) has held back the scheme till date.
Statistics: With the help of few concerned school staff members, close to 130 children are getting benefitted by some or the other means of transport (but with no assured provisions for entire year).
3. As an integral part of taking every child to school, ECC decided to make transport provisions on immediate basis, wherever required. Focus was shifted from new admissions to continuity of already admitted children. Local vans or rickshaws were identified by volunteers and field staff, and transport started at very non-standard rates. It is becoming difficult to arrange funds for everyday transport expenses. Not sure how many days ECC can transport these children. (And more than 50% admissions are still pending...)
Statistics: Around 150 children are using transport facility by ECC, since June 2012. Vans and rickshaws are charging anywhere between Rs.400 and Rs.800 per child per month. (PMC estimate on school transport is Rs.300 per child per month. Daily management and follow-up with rickshaw-wallas is a different story altogether...)
What are possible solutions?
- Parents taking interest in child's education & attendance in school. THE BEST, but most difficult solution!
- Schools and PMC arranging daily transport of children living away from school. Schools need to be empowered (financially and resourcefully) for handling this activity.
- Local citizens volunteering to arrange and monitor the transport (and escort, if possible) on daily basis. A group of concerned senior citizens, professionals, students, ladies, can help the children reach school everyday, safely and surely.
The 'survey--admission--follow-up' process will have to be continued till every child gets its right to education. The campaign is a citizens' initiative. It believes in every citizen's contribution. And it believes - every child counts!