50% garden kids drop out: Study

Survey on education scenario in tea estates paints bleak picture

By A STAFF REPORTER in Guwahati
  • Published 25.07.15
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Guwahati, July 24: A study carried out by Save the Children, a child rights NGO, has painted a gloomy picture of the education scenario in the tea garden areas of Assam.

A baseline study conducted by Save the Children along with two voluntary organisations of Sonitpur district - People Action for Development and Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis - has revealed that about 50 per cent children do not attend schools regularly.

Sharing excerpts of the study, state programme manager of Save the Children, Chittapriyo Sadhu, today said about 40 per cent school management committees are non-functional and only 30 per cent schools have separate toilet facilities for girls.

The study also found that educational opportunities in the tea garden areas are limited to lower primary levels and most of the schools do not conform to the pupil-teacher ratio according to the RTE Act, which is 30:1.

Sadhu said despite being associated with an industry that commands a significant share in the world tea market, a huge population of tea garden workers still live below the poverty line and are secluded from mainstream development.

He said the culture of exclusion is also rooted in the history of seclusion of the tea garden communities from larger social fabric of the state.

"Children are the worst sufferers as they are often caught in the vicious cycle of limited scope for quality education, dearth of opportunities for age appropriate life skills and vocational skill development and exclusion from social protection mechanism," he said.

Sadhu, quoting the baseline study, said only 14 per cent of the girls and 12 per cent of the boys up to the age of three years access the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) services while just 19 per cent of the children access pre-primary education in ICDS centres, also known as Anganwadi kendras.

There are 950 tea estates in the state accommodating approximately 60 lakh people, which account for 20 per cent of the state's population. Almost 24 lakh children live in the tea gardens of Assam.

"Children are affected by poor health conditions, which can be largely attributed to inadequate water and sanitation facilities, lack of awareness about health care practices and poor nutritional gain. Hence, incidences of under nutrition and infectious diseases are widely prevalent," he said.

According to a National Family Health Survey, about 60 per cent of the children are underweight and over 90 per cent of adolescent girls are reported anaemic.

Manoj Kalinda, a Class X student from a tea garden at Gohpur area in Sonitpur district, rued the absence of an Anganwadi centre in their area.

He said alcoholism among tea garden workers is a major problem that affects their children.