I work with the Every Child Counts (ECC) campaign,which aims at enrolling all six-year-old children in corporation schools by June 2012. Whenever I visit a construction site where ECC is yet to start a class,reality continues to shock me. In spite of being aware of the statistical data of out-of-school children,when you come face-to-face with these unseen,unaccounted children,how can you remain unaffected?
After an initial survey of a construction site,permission was taken from the concerned builder to allow us to meet the childrens parents – the laborers who work on the site – and gather basic information about the children. The builder has allowed us to hold a class for the ECC campaign. A four or five-month-old baby sleeps on a cement sack and 36 other kids sit around a teacher with curiosity written all over them. Those who should be in school (about 6-7 of them) have younger siblings in tow. Their once-upon-a-time school days almost belong to another world. Being uprooted is linked to their parents livelihood. A new place,a new language,new insecurities.
There are about 12 children of six or seven years of age. The children are asked if they would like to go to school and the answer is a resounding yes! Of the others,most of them have never been to a school of any sort. Nursery/pre-primary schools are unheard of. But their faces light up when they play with puzzles,repeat an action song line-by-line,or listen to a story. The teacher distributes a few picture story books. They hold it hesitantly but then soon turn pages and point out interesting things theyve discovered in it. After some time,all the children play a game: Majhya aaiche patra haravale…te mala sapadle. The builder has arranged for some biscuit packets to be distributed to the children. And as we bid them goodbye,they ask us to come the next day and the next and the next!
Yes,that is exactly what we would like to do,but we have to overcome many obstacles: permission from the builder,identifying and training teachers,paying their salary,making suitable teaching aids and so on. We hope the builder agrees to sponsor this site. That will not only help and encourage us but also develop a symbiotic relationship essential for development in the true sense.
(The writer volunteers with Every Child Counts campaign)