Pune division’s Women and Child Development department has recently started a pilot project in Solapur to increase enrollment of children of sugarcane workers in schools.
The project includes making school leaving certificates easily available to making local people take responsibility of the kids. The department intends to spread the project to other districts too.
“What we are trying to do is create an all-inclusive set-up of Anganwadi sevikas, school headmasters and a special group of people called ‘bal mitra’ (friends of children) aware about the situation of these sugarcane factory workers. Once the community in the area decides to help these people, then there will be better chances of education among the students,” said R S Patil, deputy commissioner, Women and Child Development.
The drop-out rates among the children of sugarcane workers are high because of the migration the job involves. For six months, the workers are in their hometown and for the next six months, they are at the sugar cane factories. When the kids are small and both the parents work, the kids are taken along and they lose out on education.
“Through this programme, the principals and teachers will be made more sensitive to the issues of the children. The children will be given school leaving certificates without any hassles so that when they go back to their hometown, they can enroll in the same class in nearby schools. The ‘bal mitra’ are local people trained to look after these students’ education. Since, there is nobody to take care of these students, most of the time they don’t go to school. These locals will make sure they do. Another reason they should attend school is because of the midday meal scheme. Most of the families cook only once or maximum twice a day. If the child goes to school, we can be assured of the child getting nutritious food at least once a day,” said a department official.
Another problem is undernourishment in both mothers and children. “We have come across instances where a mother goes to work the next day after delivering the baby. This is a serious issue and needs to be stopped. Hence, we are roping in Anganwadi sevikas. They will monitor the health of child and mother, provide them with supplements and food so that both stay healthy,” said the official.