Inclusive education for working children and street children in India : International Perspective on Educational Diversity and Inclusion

By Mohd Akhtar Siddiqui

Progress in society affects individuals differently and unequally. For many, the globalizing economy can herald substantial changes in countries such as India, with improvement in the lives of citizens through increased access to socio-eco­nomic opportunities. But for substantial numbers in the developing world increased economic prosperity remains an irrelevant process and sometimes for minority groups it even enhances difficulties and hardships, particularly for their children. The very poor remain very poor, in a country where the majority may become moderately prosperous. The children of the very poor are the most vul­nerable, and continue to face the most difficult circumstances in the form of hunger, poverty, insecurity, high infant and child mortality, illiteracy, and exploitation and abuse of varied kinds.India is no exception, and the most vul­nerable include working children, street children, those living in slums and resettlement colonies, children of sex workers, children of prisoners, children liv­ing in institutions, and children of construction workers and other migrant labourers.Fast-paced and unplanned urbanization in the recent past, often without com­mensurate increase in services, has only multiplied the numbers of these children and further aggravated their sufferings, particularly in terms of their general edu­cational deprivation. It is they who deserve the most immediate attention of the planners, administrators and educationists. In this chapter I confine an overview to educational rights and deprivations of the two largest and most important sec­tions of deprived Indian children, namely, working children and street children. Despite some policy declarations in the past for out-of-school children, the Government has not been able to ensure their constitutionally guaranteed right to education. In democratic India the State has a constitutional duty to ensure that they are able to develop into healthy, efficient, responsible and productive adults, and thus may effectively contribute to the development and healthy survival o society in a highly competitive globalized world. Education is the single most powerful medium that can help people achieve this cherished goal.However, it is not the need for growth and development of society alone which calls for proper attention to the education and training of its children and future citizens; rather, in a civilized world, it is the human entity of the child who in his or her own right deserves full and equitable attention by society’s institutions. Today’s human rights-conscious society is obliged to recognize this aspiration and the fundamental right of each child in terms of education and social welfare. Neglect of children not only arrests their growth and development but that of the nation as a whole (Bhagwati et ai, 1987).Indian society, like many others, has failed to fully realize these twin values associated with the optimizing of children’s development, and this is evident from the fact that in India there are perhaps the highest number of out-of-school chil­dren in the world most of whom are working or street children, at the mercy of the exploitative adult world that surrounds them. In commenting on this situation, Justice Krishna Iyer appropriately quoted the Nobel Laureate Gabriel Mistal of Chile, who says that:Many of the things we need can wait. But the child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed his blood is being made and his sense being developed. To him, we cannot answer, ‘Tomorrow’. His name is ‘Today’.(Iyer, 1979)
Elementary Education for All
As a democratic society, having subscribed to the principles of equality and social justice, the Indian State over the past five decades has been consciously trying to provide education to the masses and particularly elementary education to all children aged six to fourteen. The first notable step was taken by the Constitution framers in 1950 by incorporating Article 45 in the Directive Principles to the Itate Policy of the Constitution which declared that ‘the State shall endeavour to provide within a period of ten years from this Constitution for free and compulsory education to all children until the age of 14 years’. To realize this constitutional goal and to universalize elementary education, massive efforts were lunched. One finds that in the period from 1950 to 2001 there has been a tremendous growth in elementary education: in 1950 22.3 million children aged six to fourteen years were enrolled in schools; by 2001-02 that figure had risen to 158.7 million, a quantum leap in as far as enrolments are concerned.But this ‘quantum leap’ is illusory: when one compares enrolment figures with completion rates of elementary education, the real picture emerges. According to e Government of India enrolment for grades one to eight in September 2003 as initially 84.9 per cent of the eligible population, but this was seriously marred j a high dropout rate of the order of 52.2 per cent in 2003. That a major part of is dropout occurred in grades one to three only makes the situation more serious. Thus by the age of fourteen more than half of all children have dropped out ‘ school – many well before the nominal school-leaving age. Either they have never joined any school or they have dropped out permanently.
It is difficult to say with certainty how many children below fourteen years have dropped out of school. Lieten (2006) points out that the estimates of Government and NGOs vary. According to government figures the number has decreased over the past two decades from approximately 21 million in 1980 to 9 million in the year 2000. Lieten estimates, however, that in India around 80 million children who have not been counted in government child labour statistics do not go to school. They have either never attended school or have dropped out permanently. These children cannot be found amongst the statistics of working children nor amongst the statistics of school-going children.According to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) statis­tics for 2000-01, at least 24 million children in the age group six to fourteen years are out of school, of whom 60 per cent are girls. The National Plan of Action for Education for All (EFA), formulated in 2003, estimated the number of out-of-school children in this age group at 35 million (Kanth, 2005).Zutshi (2000) has computed the out-of-school children population in the age group five to fourteen years, using population projections for 2000 prepared by the Expert Committee of Census of India for this purpose. According to the cen­sus of 1991, India recorded a child population (five to fourteen years) of 209.98 million. Of these, around a half (105.72 million) were out of school. The esti­mated child population in the year 2000 was 242.11 million. It was then projected that the proportion of out-of-school children in 2000 would come down from 50 per cent to about 30 per cent, and so the estimated population of out-of-school children would be some 72.63 millions (Zutshi, 2000).Out-of-school children include those who stay at home to care for cattle, look after younger children, collect firewood, work in fields, cottage industries, restau­rants, roadside tea stalls, motor mechanics’ workshops, or as domestic servants in middle class homes. They may also become prostitutes or live as street children, begging or picking rags and bottles from trash for resale. Many are bonded labourers and work for local land owners (Weiner, 1991).Those children in urban areas endure the most difficult circumstances. The urban population has grown from 159 million in 1981 to about 315 million in 2005, one-third of whom live below the poverty line, and lack access to basic facilities and services. It was also estimated that in 2005, children aged six to fourteen in urban areas would number 65 to 70 millions, of whom almost 20 mil­lions were children experiencing extreme poverty (Kaushik, 2005). However, the National Plan of Action for Education for All (EFA) (2003) puts the figure of out-of-school children in India in the age group six to fourteen years at 35 million, with 10 million of them being in urban areas. Even if this most conservative esti­mate of out-of-school children is accepted, the magnitude of the problem is profound.The problem of large populations of street and working children is accentuated by other problems of continued rural to urban migration: the mushrooming of slums and unauthorised habitations in subhuman conditions; gross socio-economic inequalities; exploitation of various kinds; slow and unbalanced development of the disadvantaged classes and their children; lack of helping resources and their unequal distribution; and an inefficient and haphazard management of educational programmes. Extreme poverty, the main reason behind expanding slums and urban populations, remains largely responsible for the increase in the population of street and working children.A substantial section of out-of-school children consists of those who live in the most difficult circumstances, and they need more urgent and special attention. They include working children, street children, children in slums and resettlement habitations, children of sex workers and prisoners, children of construction work­ers who live within the shell of the buildings they construct, and migrant labourers.
Working children
Defining ‘working children’ is problematic. Experts have tried to draw a distinc­tion between household work and economic labour, since some activities of the child may not fall in the category of labour but may still be called work within a household where economic activity takes place. Some experts have classified working children into six categories, based on distinct features of activities chil­dren are made to undertake. These include:1         domestic work2         non-domestic and non-monetary work3         bonded child labour4         external wage labour5         commercial and sexual exploitation6         child combatants – a new type of child exploitation and a difficult challenge of the current century.(Kaushik, 2005)
However, Burra (1995) has simplified this classification into four categories:1         those children who work in factories, workshops and mines2         children under bondage in agriculture or industry3         street children mostly found in service sectors4         children who work as a part of family in agriculture, industry or home-based work.However, many children may be classified in more than one category.There are several determinants of that status of ‘working children’ which may include demand- as well as supply-side factors. Abject poverty of the family is the main reason. Poor people tend to send their children out for work to supplement a meagre family income. As many as 25 per cent of people living below the povertyline force or require their children to engage in economic activities. Poverty also leads to pledging of children as security for a loan. Socio-economic factors like female literacy, family size, adult wage rates, diversification of the rural economy, and female work participation are also important determinants of child labour. Lack of educational facilities in an area may also increase the supply of child labour. Working children or child labour may increase in number due to demand-side factors also. Employers’ preference for children due to their favourable physical features, low wages, ease of discipline, etc. are demand-side factors. Economic development and better access to schooling is a supply-side factor which may reduce the supply of working children.Child labour deprives children of the opportunity for education, play and recreation which in turn arrests their physical as well as emotional growth, and thwarts their preparation for adult responsibilities. It also causes physical hazards to children. Absolute abolition of child labour in India will, however, take many years, and requires a multi-pronged strategy. There are two schools of thought on how to address the problem. The first school argues that it is the abject poverty of parents which is the main cause of children being withdrawn from school, and entered into the labour market. Proponents of this school advocate regulation of labour, progressively eliminating the possibility of child workers. Thus by regula­tion of employment in selected industries, improving working conditions, reducing working hours, ensuring minimum wages, and providing adjunct health and education facilities, the plight of child labourers can be eased. These advo­cates feel that sudden elimination of child labour would further bring down the standard of living of already impoverished families.In contrast, the second school argues that it is due to lack of both access to qual­ity education and rewards for education that children are working; therefore child labour should be completely prohibited with steps taken to provide compulsory primary education of adequate quality. This group does not distinguish between child labour and child work and also does not believe in non-formal education, which it sees as an illusion. In its policy statement, a multi-focused strategy is the best answer to the problem of child labour which includes legislative measures, educational interventions and social mobilization for children’s rights.
Street children
The term ‘street children’ identifies those who spend considerable time on the street in connection with a job, or without it. They live on the street with or with­out a family. UNICEF (2004) has defined street children as those for whom the street (in the widest sense of the term, i.e. unoccupied dwellings, wastelands, etc.) has become their real home, a situation where there is no protection, supervision or direction from responsible adults.UNICEF has classified street children into three groups:1    Children on the street: these are children who have family connections of a more or less regular nature. Their focus in life is still the home. Most of themreturn home at the end of each working day and have a sense of belonging to the local community where their home is situated.2         Children of the street: this group is smaller but more complex. Children in this group see the street as their home, and it is there that they seek shelter, food and a sense of family among companions. Family ties exist but are remote and their former home is visited infrequently.3         Abandoned children: this group may appear to be a part of the second group and in daily activities is fairly indistinguishable from it. However, by virtue of having severed all ties with a biological family these children are entirely on their own not just for material but also for psychological survival.These three categories are found particularly in all developing countries but more so in South Asian countries including India. Children of the street have been divided further into two groups, firstly, ‘Roofless’ who live and work on the street (i.e. in abandoned buildings, under bridges, railway stations, bus stands, in door­ways, in public parks) yet maintain occasional contacts with the families who may live in the same city or in other cities or rural areas. They see the street as their home. The second type, ‘Rootless’ children, live and work on the street (in the widest sense of the term) and have no family contacts.Street children are susceptible to drug/alcoholic addiction including the use of inhalants, such as cobbler’s glue, correction fluid, gold/silver spray paint, nail pol­ish, rubber cement and gasoline – which offer them an escape from reality and take away hunger. In return they risk a host of physical and psychological prob­lems including hallucinations, pulmonary oedema, kidney failure and irreversible brain damage. They sniff glue because it also gives them the ‘courage’ to steal and engage in survival sex. These children are routinely detained illegally, beaten and tortured by police and by employers, to extract maximum labour out of them (Human Rights Watch Asia, 1998). This is a consequence of several factors including the inadequacy and non-implementation of legal safeguards, and the level of discretion that police enjoy in administering welfare legislation. These children invite such extreme reaction only because they are viewed as vagrants and criminals. No doubt, street children are sometimes involved in petty thefts, drug trafficking, prostitution and other criminal activities, yet very few attempts are made to examine the root cause for such activities, or to provide care and reha­bilitation. They are, on the contrary, easy targets of police atrocities. These children are young, small, poor, alone and ignorant of their rights and often have no family members who will come to their rescue or defence. It does not take much time or effort to detain and beat a child to deter any formal complaints about these atrocities.The issues and needs of the children living on the streets of the cities have attracted worldwide attention. The most effective response to this, of course, is prevention through general support to families in poverty, creating broad-based awareness among the parents and society, addressing the factors underlying fam­ily disintegration. Other preventive measures may include employment for adults, support in times of crisis, strong childcare programmes, relevant schooling, and efforts to address the roots of domestic violence to keep families intact so that they are able to fulfil responsibilities towards their children.Children on the street need psychological support, relationships and a role in society, along with other basic issues related to their survival, security, and pro­tection of their civil rights like food money, shelter, clothes, health care, and education. They should have the right to live in dignity, to health and education, to protection from abuse, exploitation and violence and to voice their own feelings and sufferings (UN, 1998).Street children (as opposed to working children) are an exclusively urban phe­nomenon. There are no exact data on their numbers. According to one estimate 18 million children live and/or labour in the streets of Indian urban centres {International Herald Tribune, 26th June 2005). An updated estimate by the UN (2003) indicates that there is a population of street children worldwide numbering 150 million in the age range of three to eighteen years, with the number still rising. About 40 per cent of them are homeless. The other 60 per cent work on the street to support their families. They are unable to attend school. India has the dubious distinction of having the largest population of street children. In urban areas alone there are at least 11 million children ‘on the streets’ (Kaur, 2003).This survey in ten cities of India found that a sizable number of street chil­dren includes abandoned children who are the direct consequence of the rapid advance of industrial growth and persistent rural and urban poverty. The cycle of events leading to abandonment begins from the migration of a family to the city, abject urban poverty, then disintegration of the family, which often begins with the father’s abandonment of it. Pressures on deserted mothers in maintain­ing their families, dependency of abandoned mothers on new partners, and rejection of these mothers’ children by stepfathers can lead to the final aban­donment of children.India’s street children, both ‘on the street’ and ‘of the street’ face a myriad problems which include lack of religious socialization and moral development, malnutrition and exposure to infection, drug addiction, loss of personal develop­ment, forced involvement in theft, pickpocketing, child sex, being trapped in crime rings, early entry into labour markets with physical, mental and psycholog­ical hazards, high risk of catching HIV/AIDS, police torture and illegal confinements (Zutshi, 2000). During the course of illegal detention and torture, police even murder some of these children without being subject to any action or censure. In fact the most common complaint mentioned by the street children is that they live in a state of continual fear of the police who often round them up, lock them up and torture them on the pretext of suspicion which is always unfounded. Police do this to fill the ‘quota’ they are expected to achieve (Kaur, 2003). According to estimates, 50 to 80 per cent of these street children are school dropouts and that too before completing their first grade. Police detention also results in dropout of street children who are, against the odds, enrolled in primary schools (Lieten, 2006).Like working children, street children also need both preventive and support­ive initiatives. The most important need is to prevent them from falling into the trap of the street by alleviating the poverty of their families, addressing the factors underlying family disintegration that leads to life on the street with preventive measures leading to some check on child abandonment. These preventive mea­sures include: increased adult employment, support in times of crises, containing domestic violence, strong child care programmes, and effective schooling. Supportive steps for those who are already street children include security and health care of children on the street, protection of their civil rights, respecting their sense of freedom as members of street peer groups and providing them with a secure and supportive environment. Their rehabilitation is a greater need than restoration to their family which may often not be willing to take back their responsibility, and the children may also have developed close peer bonds on the street. Their education, health care, shelter and regular counselling, in fact, need greater and more immediate attention.Educational issues
The educational issues of street and working children in the Indian context may be analyzed in various ways:1         Children’s access to good quality and relevant education remains a lead issue.2         There are several barriers to access, enrolment, continuation and transition from one class to another. For example, for immigrating families a persistent demand for identity proof, birth certificate, transfer certificate, etc. continues to block their children’s easy access to education.3         Quality of education is a very serious issue that is directly responsible for creating the large number of working and street children. This issue demands immediate attention. Quality of education does not merely mean providing infrastructure, water and toilet facilities, buildings, etc. The measure of qual­ity needs to be clearly understood. Its scope extends beyond learning outcomes. Thus, quality has also to be seen in terms of students’ happiness, relevance of their education, capacity building, confidence development and concrete skill development.4         Teachers’ inappropriate, indifferent and rather hostile attitude towards stu­dents is another serious issue which causes distance between them and their students and makes them less effective in guiding students in learning and personality development. There also exists a social distance between teachers and their students. Teachers generally come from middle class backgrounds, and municipal school students are generally drawn from very poor families, from lower and ‘untouchable’ castes.5         There is a conspicuous absence of any teaching manual that could guide innovative ways of educating this disadvantaged group, and which is contextualized and friendly to these children.6         These children often suffer from very low attention levels, especially those who have experienced sensory damage through addictions. It is often diffi­cult to gain the concentration of the child for more than fifteen minutes. They need a different pedagogic approach through which their attention can be engaged for longer teaching-learning encounters.7      There is a high dropout rate due to high demand of child workers in the employment market, poor quality of education and educational environ­ments, insecurity, police round-ups and irregular attendance. Work alongside studies can undermine the child’s concentration and effort in school.8      Simply rounding up ‘out of school (working) children’ and forcing them into formal schools results in illegal confinement, compulsion and trauma for the children involved and their families (Reddy, 2004).9      In mixed population schools in cities the question of the medium of instruc­tion is raised which requires deployment of multilingual teachers. Teacher deployment and preparation is a critical issue.
10     Getting dropout students back to school after a Bridge course is a crucial but difficult task. However, getting them back to school is not enough. These mainstreamed children often tend to drop out quickly for various reasons.11     Urban schools have diverse groups coming from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. A large number of street and working children in many urban slums are Dalits and Muslims. They have diverse educational needs as special groups.12     Often the quality of learning in urban municipal schools is low due to over­crowding in classes and poor quality of teaching.13     Street and working children need to acquire employable skills early in life owing to their peculiar socio-economic background. Yet we find that there is little or no arrangement for vocational education at elementary school level.14     Non-formal education (NFE) and alternative schools are poorer and weaker options for children.15     The dichotomy between private fee-paying schools and local government schools is another factor for keeping deprived urban children out of school. The former are seen as a hub of quality and better than the latter, though this may not always be true (Kaushik, 2005).16     It is often difficult to make the child realize the importance of education for his/her development. This feeling is mainly due to the attitude of the parents towards education. Hostile attitudes of parents who would prefer their child to work the whole day rather than study for even one hour contributes to chil­dren’s lack of interest in education.
In search of solutionsSeveral measures have been undertaken to deal with the problem of street chil­dren and working children, which include legal approaches and state policies for the more than 90 million working and street children in India (Lieten, 2006). Distinctions will have to be drawn between demand-side and supply-side factors of child labour. While on the one hand attention will be paid to educational fac­tors, it is equally important to pay attention to poverty alleviation, female literacy, fertility rate, adult wage rates, diversification of rural economy, female work participation rate, better opportunities for adult labour, etc. to check the supply of child labour (Dev, 2004).Some policy advocates feel that education is a well established alternative strategy to finally deal with the problem of working and street children. But this strategy will work only if we are able to ensure full enrolment and retention in the formal education system. As long as poor enrolment and high dropout persist, there is the chance that a high proportion of child labour will persist. This is due to several reasons including non-availability of proper schools, poor and irrele­vant course curriculums, lack of teachers and other relevant infrastructure like buildings and furniture, non-availability of text books, teaching material, lack of employment opportunity and of further education after completing elementary education (Aggarawal, 2004). Poor or little training of teachers, their indifferent and rather hostile attitude towards children from stigmatized groups such as Dalits, is also responsible for poor quality of education and high dropout of chil­dren. Scholars like Burra (1995), Weiner (1991) and Satgopal (2003) who believe that the answer to the problem of working and street children lies in compulsory elementary education, assert that non-formal education which implies education with work (earning while learning) is a myth as it is neither feasible nor desirable. Satgopal rightly observes that there has been a dilution of the policy commitment to the principle of ‘education of equitable quality’ in the last fifteen years, by instituting parallel layers of educational facilities. He feels that recourse to the multi-layered education system will only ensure maintenance of social hierar­chies of class, caste, culture and gender (Satgopal, 2003). What needs to be done is to put in place the Common School system with neighborhood schools as envisaged in the Kothari Education Commission’s Report (1964—66) and commit­ted to by Parliament in approving the national education plans in the years 1968, 1986 and 1992.It is the pressure of increasing privatization and commercialization of educa­tion that is continuously pushing the implementation of the concept of the Common School system to the margins and delaying implementation of the prin­ciples of quality education for all (Annan, 2001). While emphasizing proper formal education, in 1994 the UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education had resolved that ordinary schools should accommodate all children regardless of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions (Annan, 2001).
Steps taken to address the issues
Several measures have been initiated during the last few decades to address the problems faced by children in difficult circumstances. Some have begun to see fruition. Soon after India’s independence, the country invoked State Constitutional support for the cause of children’s educational rights. Article 45 in the Constitution was the first manifestation in independent India of the State’s will to provide ele­mentary education to all children irrespective of their conditions and background. The recent attempt of the Ninety-third Constitutional Amendment contained in Article 21A has strengthened the Constitutional commitment of the State, since it is now recognized that education is a fundamental right of the child. The amendment is in line with the school of thought which asserts that proper provision of universal elementary education of good quality will attract children to education and this might solve the problem of working and street children. However, there are certain other provisions of law which due to their restrictive approach are withholding the benefits of this amendment to reach all children. The Child Labour Act (1986) is one such example in point; it prohibits employment of children only in hazardous industries. The Act does not prohibit child labour completely and by implication permits child labour in ‘non-hazardous industries’. Two provisions, Article 21A of Constitutional Law (1993) and the Child Labour Act of 1986, do not seem to be fully compatible; they cannot both go together so far as education of equal quality for all children is concerned.Looking at the international minimum age standards for employment we find that they are also directly linked to schooling. The ILO Minimum Age Convention 1973 (No. 138) which was built on the ten instruments adopted before the Second World War, expresses this tradition by stating that the mini­mum age for entry into employment should not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling (UN, 2000). This link was clearly aimed at ensuring that the child’s human capital is developed at least to its minimum level of potential. The ILO Minimum Age Convention 1973 (No. 138) was declared (if not enacted by many countries) on 19 June 1976. Paragraph two of its Article 2 further clari­fied that the minimum age of beginning full-time work shall not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling, and in any case not less that of fif­teen years. Only in exceptional cases may the governments of the member states be allowed to specify a minimum age of fourteen years.The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 November 1989, and the Government of India acceded to it on 11 December 1992. Article 32 of the UN Convention recog­nises the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be ‘hazardous’ or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.In the 1990s it was increasingly debated whether there were certain forms of labour that were so inhumane that they could no longer be tolerated and so in Convention 182 of ILO in 1999 it was finally proposed that many types of child labour should be done away with immediately. Recommendation 1990 of UNICEF (UNICEF, 2005) also recommended priority attention to preventing children from undertaking hazardous work (Lieten, 2006). This suggests that even the UN does not find it immediately feasible to completely abolish child labour in all forms.
Educational policies and programmes
Educational initiatives are recognized as among the best strategy to protect work­ing and street children from all kinds of social, moral, emotional, and economic exploitation and deprivation (Weiner, 1991). The initiatives for education of street and working children were incorporated in the National Policy on Education 1986 and its revisions carried out in 1992. In the Programme of Action (1986) it was envisaged that in order to provide special support for the education of children in urban slums, working children and children in under-served areas, hill areas and tribal areas, Non Formal Education (NFE) centres should be opened with state support from both government and NGOs. These NFE centres were to have features of organizational flexibility, relevance of cur­riculum, diversity in learning activities to relate them to learners’ needs, and decentralization of management (MHRD, 1986). While expressing its satisfac­tion over the opening of 272,000 NFE centres with an enrolment of 6.8 million children in 1992, the Revised Programme of Action (RPOA) declared that NFE schemes must be strengthened further and will serve those children who cannot attend formal schools (MHRE), 1992).The Eighth Five Year Plan also placed greater emphasis on opening non-for­mal education centres for out-of-school children and children with special needs. As a result, by the turn of the century the country had as many as 297,000 NFE centres covering 7.42 million children in twenty-four States and Urban Territories. Of these, 238,000 NFE centres are being run by the State Governments and 58,788 centres are being run by 816 NGOs (Kanth, 2005). In the year 2000 the Government launched a massive scheme of ‘Education for All’ called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in mission mode, which also incorporated many important strategies for out-of-school children with special circumstances. It included the idea of Alternative and Innovative Education (AIE) centres, Education Guarantee Scheme centres (Balika Shivirs), and back-to-school camps for bridge courses for children who had dropped out of school (MHRD, 2001). A ten-year programme of University Elementary Education (UEE) was to be com­pleted in 2010 with the hope that all children, including working and street children, would be enrolled in schools or alternative education institutions. Many alternative education centres, have been opened in rural and urban areas, but the infrastructure and teaching resources in them are not comparable with formal schools by any reckoning.
Special action for street children
In 1993 the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of the Government of India launched an Integrated Programme for Street Children ‘for full and whole­some development of street children without homes and family ties and for prevention of destitution and withdrawal of children from a life on the street and their placement into national mainstream’. The essential components of the pro­gramme include provision of shelter, nutrition, health care, sanitation and hygiene, safe drinking water, education, recreational facilities and protection against abuse and exploitation to destitute and neglected street children (MSJ, 1993).The scheme includes a wide range of programmes and initiatives:•          contact programmes offering counselling, guidance and referral services to destitute and neglected children;•          establishment of 24-hour drop-in shelters for street children with facilities for night stay, safe drinking water, bathing, latrines, first aid and recreation;•          non-formal education programmes imparting literacy, numeracy and life education;•          programmes for reintegration of children with then families;•          programmes for enrolment of these children in schools including full support for subsistence, education, nutrition, recreation, etc.;•          programmes providing facilities for training in meaningful vocations;•          programmes for occupational placement;•          programmes aimed at mobilizing preventive health services and providing access to treatment facilities;•          programmes aimed at reducing the incidence of drug and substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and STIs and other chronic health disorders;•          programmes aimed at providing recreational facilities;•          programmes for capacity building of NGOs, local bodies and state govern­ment to undertake related responsibilities;•          programmes for advocacy and awareness-building on child rights.The scheme is already operational in thirty-seven cities across the country. In 1999-2000 there were 32,451 beneficiaries of the scheme through 103 NGOs and voluntary organizations which have been provided with a 90 per cent grant. The Ministry has provided grants of 69.50 million Rupees to the NGOs to provide non-institutional and institutional support to the 32,451 street children (MSJ, 2000). Excellent though these initiatives are, they are thinly spread and inade­quately funded and reach only a small minority of street children, although further funding with US aid is promised (ILO, 2006).
Special project for working childrenThe Government of India passed the Prohibition of Child Labour Act in 1986 which was followed by the National Child Labour Project, begun in 1998. This initiated several action-oriented programmes in order to withdraw children from hazardous work, prevent them from entering again into the labour market and to rehabilitate them successfully. The following responsibilities under the project have to be taken up:•          effective enforcement of child labour laws;•          identification of areas for starting NFE centres through opening new schools/centres;•          creating public awareness through adult education, and income generation;•          creating employment opportunities for the target families.Under the project, ten hazardous industries1 were identified with a high incidence of child labour. By June 2000 the scheme was being implemented in ninety-three districts of the country. Special schools under this scheme are run in two types, one with fifty students and the other with 100 students. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has opened such centres in 2,571 schools with an enrolment of 155,250 children under the NCLP scheme (MoL, 2000; ILO, 2006). Welcome as these initiatives are, they clearly meet the needs of only a small num­ber of the many millions of street and working children in India.
Initiatives by NGOs
The following are a few examples of the involvement of NGOs and the sharing of responsibility by them in this area (Butterflies, 2001, 2003):•          Child in Need Institute (CENT) has the mission to improve the life of urban disadvantaged children through education and mobilization. This group establishes Child Centres in co-operation with the community to educate out-of-school children, mainstreaming them into age-appropriate classes in formal schools. Their experience suggests that a sartorial approach does not bear much fruit unless it is coupled with the activities of other sectors such as night shelters, protection from abuse, food and health care. CINI operates through community-based preparatory centres, residential camps for work­ing children and also coaching centres for children studying in formal schools.•          Pratham is another NGO established in 1994 in Bombay and has since branched out to twenty-six other cities including Delhi, Patna, Ahmadabad, Pune, Bangalore and Vadodra, and five rural districts in nine states. Pratham’s interventions are with pre-school children, out-of-school children, in-school children and working children. Pratham has also started an out-of-school children’s programme called Akhar Setu. This was set up in response to the difficulties faced in mainstreaming particular groups of children: those who are working or supporting their parents economically and are therefore unable to attend school; older children who cannot be admitted to their age-specific classes; and those who have no schools nearby.•          Balajyothi, a part of the National Child Labour Project, was one of the first in Andra Pradesh to address the issue of child labour and education in an urban context covering 9000 children in 150 slum clusters.•          Naandi Foundation has been supporting elementary education in Hyderabad city through its schemes of Support our Schools (SOS) and the Midday Meal scheme involving 60,000 government school children. The efforts have boosted attendance rates by 25 per cent which has significantly reduced health-related absenteeism (Kanth, 2005).•          Prayas is another large NGO which believes that for working children Alternative Education is the first step towards mainstream schooling; in the process it weans children away from any form of child labour. Annually, they educate and mainstream about 3,000 children. Prayas also has an out­reach programme that provides educational opportunities to working children, street children, pavement dwellers, and children in conflict with the law. Teaching and learning happens in places of work on streets, pave­ments, railway platforms – wherever children want to learn. To supplement efforts for mainstreaming it also provides supplementary nutrition and health care facilities to all children enrolled in its AE centres. Prayas has been identified by the Government of India as one of only twenty NGOs in the country to implement vocational education and training of twelve to sixteen-year-old street children and working children, including girls and sometimes women also. Girls and women are also encouraged to form self-help groups. To help and facilitate its vocational students as well as surrounding communities to get placements it liaises with corporate houses, and small and medium sized business units. Prayas also arranges funds for those starting their own ventures. Thus it also helps in vocational preparation of street and working children and their placement in society.Excellent though these various initiatives are, they still reach only a minority of the estimated 90 million street and working children.
Suggestions for improving education of deprived children
Although several steps both by the State and civil society have been taken to address the educational issues concerning street and working children, they nevertheless continue to face complex social, economic, developmental, secu­rity, and other problems (Weiner, 1991). Further attention needs to be paid to the following aspects in order to improve the educational status of these deprived children:•          Teachers’ roles are extremely important in both retaining the children in schools and non-formal education (NFE) learning centres and in helping them acquire a desire for learning. So teachers need to be fully sensitized towards the special features, problems and needs of these children during then pre-service training as well as during in-service training programmes, and be encouraged to empathize with these children in order to understand their problems and needs.•          Teachers and NFE instructors should also be trained for preparing need-based teaching – learning material, keeping the socio-emotional context of deprived children in mind and organizing learner-centric learning experi­ences in and outside the classroom.•          A school’s whole appearance and teaching-learning equipment and facilities require additional allocation of funds for improving infrastructural and work­ing conditions.•          Preventive and creative approaches of supervision in schools and learning centres have to be adopted and expert guidance to teachers in a friendlyInclusive education for street children in India   177environment have to be given, so as to bring qualitative improvement in learning and achievement of these children.The government should arrange for education of all children in a locality in the neighborhood schools through the common school system. This is a long-pending recommendation and resolve of the national education policy. Professional development of schoolteachers and NFE/AIE (Non Formal Education/Alternative and Innovative Education) instructors should be accepted as an ongoing activity. This will keep them informed and motivated and will have favourable effects on their performance.Ambience and infrastructure of NFE centres should offer basic facilities criticized NFE centres more acceptable and useful for children attending them..NFE instructors need to be better oriented in making teaching-learning more interesting. Their training, salaries, use of teaching aids and methodology of teaching also need a serious review in order to ensure their better and more motivated participation in their responsibility.Students attending NFE/AIE centres merely acquire literacy and numeracy whereas they really need to learn life skills also. It is important that an alter­native curriculum for NFE/AIE centres is developed keeping the socio-economic and emotional needs of street and working children in mind, and that instructors are properly oriented to this curriculum. Locally relevant teaching-learning material has to be developed to make teaching-learning more interesting and meaningful and compatible with the socio-cultural situation of the learners.There is an urgent need for integration of programmes of different ministries for working children and street children into a single well-resourced pro­gramme so as to increase the collective impact of these initiatives and programmes. This should be done through some joint committee with repre­sentatives from all concerned ministries and some experts. Special emphasis on girls’ education has to be made for their self-sufficiency, independence and self protection. It may be done by organizing corner meet­ings, campaigns, media presentations and discussions, etc. A partnership between employers, government departments and NGOs needs to be promoted, as has been required in a 2001 order by the Supreme Court, so that their concerted efforts lead to better results (Sharma, 2003). Improving and strengthening the monitoring of State-sponsored programmes and schemes meant for these children should be emphasized for their better and timely implementation. Monitoring mechanisms, norms and procedures at different levels should therefore be evolved and enforced. For better returns of non-governmental participation in the education of deprived children it seems necessary for networking NGOs to establish resource centres for teachers at strategically located points in the cities. These could provide technical, academic and professional support to teachers of NFE centres and regular schools.          Funding for NFE/EGS (Education Guarantee Schemes) centres also needs to be enhanced to improve the quality of the teaching-learning environment in these centres.•          Gradually all formal and non-formal centres should be developed into fully fledged formal schools so that the deprived children joining them are also able to acquire education of a comparable quality.•          By involving NGOs in organizing mass contact programmes for parents of working children they should be persuaded to help their children join educa­tion centres and spare them for studies.
The goal of universal elementary education in India which was to be realized in 1960 has yet to be achieved. Although many state-level and non-governmental initiatives have been taken and constitutional and legal provisions have been made, many millions of children are still out of school and many millions educa­tionally deprived. Despite some policy announcements and the launch of heavily funded centrally sponsored schemes for ‘education for all’ these children have generally remained out of the ambit of education. Either they don’t have access to education as yet or they have dropped out of it. Education for them is often irrel­evant, unattractive or actively rejecting. These out-of-school children are dominated by two major categories, namely, street children and working children who are forced by family, social, economic and educational circumstances to sur­vive on the streets or remain heavily engaged in different kinds of work. Despite a constitutional amendment which grants the Right to Education as a Fundamental Right of the child not much seems to be moving in the direction of the kind of inclusive education which encompasses all categories of deprived children, and provides education that is relevant and of acceptable quality. In fact, the Child Labour Act 1987 still permits child labour in ‘non-hazardous’ industries. The deprived street and working children are predominantly found in urban areas where migration of the rural poor and their destitute families is taking place con­tinuously. An additional problem is that of child labour in rural areas in which children are hidden away in locked workshops working from dawn to dusk – mak­ing, for example, matches, which involves skinned and blistered fingers and breathing sulphur, in children as young as five (Dhariwal, 2006). One danger of increased legislation against child labour is to drive it either underground or out of the cities.Handling the educational problems of these children in a vast country like India is a major challenge. There is little possibility of controlling or curtailing the pace of urbanization. It is only a thoughtful and imaginative multi-focused handling of the problem of out-of-school children, implementation of the long-pending state-supported common school system and concerted efforts to deal with the educational problems of working and street children in their own socio-economic contexts, that India may achieve the goal of basic education for all children. An empathic and humane approach to the education of deprived children is the need ofthe hour. There is an urgent need that all concerned with organization and delivery of education have to be thoroughly reoriented and sensitized towards the special circumstances and peculiar needs of these children so that they approach them with a true sense of concern and commitment to improve their educational lot and thereby empower them socially and economically.At the same time the pending Compulsory Primary Education Act has to be passed without any further delay. To protect children from economic exploitation, suitable amendments to the Child Labour Act 1987 need to be expedited. Similarly, the draft Bill of Offences Against Children Act 2006 has to be passed immediately, with more comprehensive provisions than those currently proposed. All these and other similar initiatives must ensure and translate the de jure equal­ity of educational opportunity into de facto equality, and help realize the long cherished dream of universal elementary education. A lengthy and important ILO report (2006) was entitled The End of Child Labor Within Our Reach. This is pos­sible in many countries, but as the ILO data show, the demand for child labour will only end when average incomes in a country exceed $500 per annum for the majority of workers. While India has in statistical terms passed this critical income level in terms of GDP per head national wealth is distributed very unequally, and the large majority of workers earn less than $500 per annum. Until the majority of workers achieve this crucial income level, the use of children as an income supplement for their parents will continue. While we expect the situation to improve year by year, up to 2003 the situation was one of ‘small change’ with millions of children still employed in ‘hazardous’ industries (HRW, 2003).
Note1 These ‘hazardous industries’ include the manufacture of fireworks, footwear, cigarettes, matches, bricks, silk and glass as well as work in building and mining (ILO, 2006).

SOURCE : BOOK [ International Perspective on Educational Diversity and Inclusion ]

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