Out of school, they toil as labourers

Out of school, they toil as labourers

Out of school, they toil as labourers

For many students, passing a class usually means going to a higher one. But for Deepa Dinakar, 15, the next progression after her class 8 was to work in a sugarcane plantation as a child labourer. The reason being that the only government school in her village offers classes only up to class 8.

Hailing from Jagnur village in Chikodi taluk, Belgaum district, Deepa’s plight is that of all the children in her village who want to study further, but have nowhere to go.

“Many girls from my village have been married off by their parents even though they want to study further,” said Deepa. Around 15 such girls as young as Deepa have been married off; many others are working in the sugarcane plantations with her.

The government primary school at Jagnur has a total of 8,200 with many students coming from the nearby villages such as Vijayanagar and Mamadapur K K, according to Deepa.  
After passing Class 8, Deepa sought admission to a government school, about 15 km away, but in vain. “The school said there were no seats left,” she said.

It’s not that there are no other schools in her village. There are six private schools where one can study from Lower Kindergarten (LKG) till graduation.

But who has the money? She tried enrolling herself in one of the private schools, but gave up on the idea. This was because she has to pay Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 every year.
On January 30, Deepa and 15 other children from various districts in Karnataka, landed in Bangalore and met the chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the commissioner for Public Instruction. Each voiced their own set of problems — from lack of high schools, closure of the only government school in their villages to lack of basic facilities.

Organisations such as Child Rights for You and Samajika Parivartan Janadolana have been assessing the situation in the State for quite sometime now and making coordinated efforts to bring the children to the City to meet the authorities.

“Out of the 45,000-odd government schools in the State, only 4,500 are high schools. Moreover, access to these high schools is hard due to lack of transport facilities. Children aged between 14 years and 18 years are at a very high risk of becoming child labourers, child brides or getting trafficked. Therefore, they need to be in classrooms and be educated,” said Praveen Shivshankar, associate general manager, CRY.