About the Project
There are 32 million children in the 6-17 year age group who remain out of school in India according to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), 2017-18. Worst affected are poor children who belong to the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities, girls, and those from areas of civil unrest, neglect and backwardness in both rural and urban contexts.
In the state of Bihar there are areas of chronic neglect wherein a large number of children are pushed out of the school system. In an atmosphere of fear and anxiety schools have become largely dysfunctional. Having lost documentation regarding age proof, address, school progress reports, children are unable to re-join schools. Several of them have joined networks of trafficking as child labour and also for sex work. Older children have been left to fend for themselves and some of them have been caught in the web of illegal activities and even in armed conflict.
With the objective of ending child labour and ensuring that all children in the area enjoy their right to education, MVF’s program covers five blocks each of Sheohar, East Champaran, Jamui, Vaishali and Rohtas Districts covering 346 Panchayats in the State of Bihar. The baseline survey conducted by MVF showed that there are 354,331 children in the 0-18 years age group of whom 240,010 children are in 6-18 years age and 19,921 children are out of schools. MVF has established contacts with school teachers and Principals of 325 Primary Schools, 271 Middle Schools, 58 High Schools and 15 Higher Secondary Schools in the area as the first step towards its objective.
The entry point in a village is survey and identification of all children in the 6-18 year age group with their names. This is not just a mechanical data collection exercise, but one of getting to know the families as well as introducing the program and objectives of MVF to each of the households. The process of survey is also an ongoing exercise of tracking every child in the area and building community support.
The programme focuses on social mobilization of the community, encourages enrolment and retention drives in favour of children’s right to education and access to anganwadi centres and all other services provided by the government. MVF also establishes Child Rights Protection Forums amongst the active members of the community who act as watchdogs for rescuing children from child labour, stopping child marriages, migration of children and act as a pressure group for resolving issues and bringing them to the notice of the government. Further, it involves Gram Panchayats and the community in getting every child into schools in their respective Gram Panchayats. Simultaneously, participation of school teachers and the School Management Committees is enlisted to propel action among them to support enrolment and retention of children in schools.
Impact of the Program On Children
Through an intense process of tracking every child 7787 children were mainstreamed into schools so far. (up to December 2020).
From all the five blocks 385 young girls and boys in 15-18 years were motivated to join vocational education. Of them 156 (41%) are girls and rest are boys.
23 child marriages have been stopped.
A process of verification of attendance registers to ascertain the physical presence of children in their classrooms in collaboration with school teachers has begun. Those who have been continuously absent for more than 5 days have been tracked and motivated to join schools.
145 remedial centres are run with the support of youth, Gram Panchayats, SMCs and parents in which 1,758 boys and 1,880 girls (total 3,638 children) were enrolled.
Establishment of Child Protection Committees (CPC)
Under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Child Protection Committees (CPCs) were to be established at the village, gram panchayat, block and district level to prevent exploitation of children, respond to violation of children’s rights by informing officials for immediate action and keeping a close watch on such incidents etc.
MVF started the process of establishing the CPCs at gram panchayat level and have so far facilitated the formation of CPCs in four panchayats towards the end of March 2020 just before the lock down was imposed.
Role of Community
In every village this committee for protection of children has been formed and established by the MVF mobiliser with the Block President, Block Development Officer, Labour Officer, Representatives of NGOs, Social Workers as members. The Committees contribute to rescuing children from child labour, stopping child marriages, creating awareness on the health and hygiene issues, highlighting issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment of adolescent girls and resolving them.
Local youth were especially involved in mobilizing communities against child labur and child marriages.
On the whole more than 1,619 meetings took place in which 28,366 participants took part.
Significantly, Mukhiyas of Gram Panchayats took an active interest in protecting child rights and joined the community and CRPF to petition to the government for better physical infrastructure that included drinking water, toilets, classrooms, play grounds , boundary walls to the school etc.
A total of 456 meetings took place across the project area at different levels like Village level, Panchayat level and Block level. Together, in all the meetings 4,287 women and 3,202 men (total 7,489) participated. They were also given orientation on their roles and responsibilities in protecting children, preventing and rescuing child labour, stopping child marriages and monitoring schools.
Reaching out to Political Parties.
In the ensuing state assembly elections held in April/May 2021 the MVF mobilisers along with members of CRPF contacted all political parties with a petition to include abolition of child labour and ensuring children’s right to education in their election manifesto. As a consequence JDU (a political party) included children’s issues like child labour, child marriages, facilities in schools, learning out comes and quality education in its election manifesto.
Involvement of employers
MVF organised meetings with the private employers and a total of 165 owners’ of different shops and establishments and other manufacturing units took part and pledged not to employ children.
Due to lockdown MVF mobilisers continue to track children. Here is the tracking format of a typical day in the life of a MVF mobiliser. They meet the Mukhiya of a gram panchayat to give them information about the status of children in his/her constituency and seek their support to resolve issues. In each ward they find out about all the school going children. They also support the remedial classes and consult the local youth who is conducting the class on the attendance of children and their well-being.
Support to migrant workers
Towards the end of March 2020 several migrant families returned to their respective villages in the project areas from worksites as far as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Delhi and so on. They underwent unbelievable hardship to return to their homes, to find that they had no entitlements to food or any kind of security. A quick survey was conducted by MVF mobilisers. In all the 5 districts 3,623 families were identified as not having a ration card. They helped them with the forms and submitted them to the Civil Supplies Department. Consequently, 1,503 families were sanctioned with ration cards and other financial relief.
In Rohtas block 100 families, Patahi 106 families, Khaira 482 families, Rajapakar 213 families and Tariyani block 111 families received support from the elected representatives.
As the schools have closed down due to the lockdown, children have, in large numbers, joined the labour force. To prevent them from slipping in to child labour remedial centres have been established by MVF with help from local youth. There are currently 32 remedial centres with 513 children in the project area. Small groups of 10-20 children meet for 2 to 3 hours every day. They maintain distance and protocols of lockdown and are facilitated to keep in touch with the rhythm of education; play and sing, do a story telling session, draw and so on. This has helped children in overcoming their anxiety and uncertainty about their education and future. They have also enabled children being rescued from labour force.
The gram panchayats oversee the program and the community offers whatever education material that is required to run the centre. At times local school teachers are invited to engage with children. During lock down in 8 villages, Mukhiyas and Sarpanches sponsored stationery to 8 remedial centres.
Remedial Centre Activities