We want to go to school, say Karnataka's poor child workers

We want to go to school, say Karnataka's poor child workers

Nagaveni, from Kondanahalli village, around 60 km from Bangalore, was among a group of underprivileged children from across Karnataka who narrated their stories, highlighting the denial of 'Right to Education' at a public hearing on 'Equal Education for every child' (Sabko Shiksha, Samaan Shiksha), here on Friday.

"I was forced to leave school as my parents cannot afford to send me to school. Now, I work and earn for my family. But I want to study and become a doctor," Nagaveni, who studied till Class 5, said.

Echoing similar sentiments, Roopini, a 17-year-old school dropout from Kurki village in Davangere district, around 270 km from here, said she wants to resume her education now three years after she left school.

The public hearing was organised by child rights NGO CRY (Child Rights and You) and was attended by experts working in the field to bring education to poor children.
Kavya, a child labourer from Kelagere village in Ramanagar district, around 40 km from here, said she wants to study to end her poverty.

"I want to study and get a government job to end poverty in my family," the 14-year-old said.

"The public hearing is a part of CRY's recently launched nationwide campaign to invite people to sign a charter to the government, asking for three amendments to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009," said Regina Thomas, director (South) CRY.

The three main demands of the campaign are inclusion of children below six years as well as 15 to 18 years in the main provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Act, 2009, making sure there is a school with qualified teachers and proper facilities within one kilometre of any habitation, and allocation of 10 percent of India's GDP to education.

At the public hearing meeting, experts analysed the existing education system, the Right to Education Bill and the extent to which it will really help ensure 'Equal education for every child'.

The panelists who attended the meet included C.S. Dwarkanath, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes; Nandini, education activist of Action Aid; Mathew Philips, director of South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring; and B.T. Venkatesh, senior counsel of the Karnataka High Court and human rights activist.

"The aim of the campaign is to build pressure on the government to influence policies that are child friendly. The endorsed charter will be submitted to key authorities across states and at the centre, including the president of India," said Regina.

"In 2009, the government passed a landmark act to guarantee the right to education. But this landmark achievement will end up including only 50 percent of India's 400 million children. Because it accounts for only eight years of free schooling. Soon, this act will see some amendments. This amendment is the best chance we'll have to influence the act before it is made final," she added.

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