The survey team at Tribal Cultural Centre, Sonari. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
A recent B-school survey has revealed the ugly truth of a city touted as a stellar schooling hub — 64 per cent child labourers drop out from schools, making a mockery of the universal implementation of Right To Education (RTE) Act in Jamshedpur.
An MBA student team from Mumbai’s Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies conducted an 18-day survey among child labourers aged between six and 14 years in 24 slums dotting Sonari and Kadma to find a blatant violation of RTE Act provisions.
The visiting MBA students — Sushant Kumar, Shipra Jha, Anisha Banerjee, Vishal Anand and B.S. Gaurav — did this survey as a part of their civic engagement internship in their curriculum in association with city NGO Adarsh Seva Sansthan.
Of them, Sushant is a Jamshedpur boy and Rajendra Vidyalaya alumnus (2005).
Of the 272 children surveyed, 127 fell in the age group of six-14, the relevant category under RTE Act. Of the 127 children, 22 never got admitted to any school. Ninety-one went to Classes I-V and a mere 14 attended Classes VI-VIII.
Still, at first look, the data looks misleadingly optimistic. If 105 child labourers out of 127 went to school at any point of their lives, it means 82.6 per cent had a brush with formal education. But, 67 of the 105 students — a high 64 per cent — dropped out.
Poor families — no surprises here — proved to be the overwhelming reason behind the dropouts.
The RTE Act (2009) mandates right to free and compulsory education at a neighbourhood school for every child between the ages of six and 14, till she or he completes elementary education. It also states that if a child over six years old does not go to school, or dropped out without completing elementary education, she or he will be enrolled in an age-appropriate class.
The Act clearly puts the onus of establishing a local school and getting children admitted on the government and local authorities.
But reality clearly overrides the Act. The survey pointed out that most parents felt youngsters could bring in extra cash rather than go to school. Of the 272 children, nearly 210 said their families were very poor and they had to work.
The team will submit the survey results to East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Himani Pande, district labour commissioner S.S. Pathak and the district education department.
“The RTE Act talks about free and compulsory education for children. But our survey shows many child labourers are completely outside the schooling ambit. Free education is of no use as parents in slums feel a child should earn some bucks,” said Sushant.
Adarsh Seva Sansthan secretary Prabha Jaiswal said high dropouts among child labourers was worrying.
“Many haven’t stepped inside a school for years and have almost forgotten what they learnt. To enforce RTE Act in letter and spirit, the administration should conduct door-to-door admissions and awareness among parents in urban slums to make them understand the long-term gains of education,” she said.