Mumbai (The Hindu): About 490 students were found to be out of school in a recent survey conducted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The Right to Education Act mandates that a child must get admission in a neighbourhood school, one located within three kilometres of the house. The aim of the survey conducted on December 21 was to identify children who were not attending school, find out the problems they were facing and bring them back into the education system.
Last year, a similar survey conducted in July found that 1,927 children were not attending school. Another survey to update the number will be conducted in February. The students, when tracked, would be enrolled in the middle of the term and are expected to cover the entire year’s syllabus.
BMC’s Education Officer Mahesh Palkar said, “As per the RTE provisions, a seven-year-old has to be enrolled only in a class suitable to his age, irrespective of whether he has studied in earlier classes or not. This means that even if he does not know anything, he would be enrolled.”
Farida Lambay, founder trustee of Pratham, an organisation that works in the field of children’s education, said, “In 2005, we tracked 78, 000 out of school children. The BMC has come a long way since then.” She said that being in school did not necessarily mean that the child was doing well. “I recall during our earlier survey, that most children who begged on streets, attended school. They would go to school in the morning and then go out to beg for the rest of the day.”
Ms. Lambay. feels the numbers do not necessarily reflect the ground situation. “Most teachers miss out on counting working children like those who sell goods in trains. Ideally, the attendance should be done at night after the children return home from work. We would place a tattoo on the children to prevent ourselves from counting them twice.”
Mr. Palkar says they would ensure that they do not end up counting the same set of children in the subsequent round of survey as “they should be in school by then.”
A teacher said, “Most of these migrant students are found in and around construction sites. Once the work wraps up, the children either shift to another construction site or return to their native villages. How are we supposed to track them? I really wonder if such surveys are really worth it?”
In fact, it was to track these missing students that the State hit upon the idea to use Aadhaar cards for the purpose. With the help of the Aadhaar number, it is verfied are if the children have joined some other school within the State. As many poor students do not have proper address or valid documents, Aadhaar-tracking is not easy.
The State is now working towards allotting a Aadhaar number to every student. Schools are now doubling up as Aadhaar enrollment centers. A teacher said, “We give their current address as their residential address and then we attest it to enroll them.”
The State has put the onus on teachers to ensure that migrant children are not left out of school. A government circular has requested teachers to check if students could stay back with their grandparents or if hostel facilities could be arranged for them. Teachers have also been asked to arrange transportation facilities for students staying at a distance from schools.
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