Saturday, March 04, 2017

School Dropout Children – Causes & Prevention


India – while one of the fastest developing countries of the world, is still famous for its 22% population below the poverty line. Statistics from UNICEF claim that as many as 10 million children in India end up working as child labourers.

According to the Right to Education Act (RTE), children between the ages of 6-14 years have the right to free and compulsory education. Most kids in this age group don’t get to see the inside of a school and the ones who do go to school, end up having to work long hours even after school and during holidays.

Even if a child manages to last in school for the first fourteen years of his/her life, they’re bound to be taken out, in order to help their family make ends meet. They either work in the family business or as labourers at construction sites, in small-scale and/or harmful industries (such as firecrackers, alcohol, etc.) or sometimes even beg on the streets.

Children from poorer families (mostly from the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes) end up foregoing education entirely and are exploited for child labour from a very young age.
Unfortunately, India lacks the strong system to monitor issues of children dropping out of schools and child labour.

Some of the main causes identified for school drop-outs are as follows:

1.      Poverty  and Lack of education of parents:

Since the impoverished and uneducated people of the country have little to no idea about contraception, and the want of a boy-child is way beyond reason, they end up producing many children. They hope this would mean more helping hands, but fail to realize it also means there are more mouths to feed, without the income to match the needs of the big family.
As a result, the children end up working for minimum wages from a very young age. Poverty pretends them to sustain with others in education rat race which is major fundamental problem in our education system. With no option to get educated, this becomes a vicious cycle for generations.

2.      Too many kids/siblings to take care of:

Since most of these kids’ parents are usually labourers themselves, working at construction sites or in small-scale industries paying minimum wages, the older children of the house usually end up having to take care of their younger siblings, along with other daily household chores. So if the kids are not working as labourers outside, they’re usually labouring at home.

3.      Education of the girl-child is still not understood/considered important:

For the poor of the society, a girl-child is still considered a burden, sometimes even a curse. This is because a major part of India still practices the Dowry System, where the girl’s family has to pay a huge sum of money, jewellery or other forms of payment to the boy’s family at the wedding. Therefore, the girl’s family doesn’t believe in spending time and money on their education.

They would rather teach them household jobs, because the more household work they know, the less dowry they wouldhave to pay. If the girls are somehow allowed to go to school, they’re usually made to drop-out at puberty to get them married off to the man (usually much older than the girl) asking for the least amount of dowry. This is also why the boys of the family are allowed to study for the first few years, so they may ask for more dowries when the time comes for them to get married.

4.      Alcoholism:

This is probably one of the most common causes of children dropping out of school. Either the father is an alcoholic and provides no financial support for the family, so the mother has to manage the income, and children end up getting neglected.
Or the children get into bad company and become alcoholics and decide school is not for them. Also, a lot of times, the parent(s) die due to alcohol-addiction related illnesses, and the child has to drop-out of school to help the family make ends meet.

5.      Lack of medical facilities:

India maybe the fastest developing country, but it still needs a lot of work in its infrastructure, especially for its poor. The lack of medical facilities for the poor makes it one more reason for young kids to be denied education. If the parents or kids fall ill, due to the unavailability of funds for treatment or the total lack of a decent medical facility, they’re forced to drop out of school. Sadly, some even succumb to their illnesses.

So what’s the solution? Ironically, it is education! But first, we need child protection services (like in western countries) - a body that ensures robust monitoring of children’s interests. We need an organization/group of people who can focus on the health, welfare, rights and protection of children in every corner of the country, regardless of their socio-economic status.

While we wait for our government to realize the need for an organization of this nature, we, as responsible citizens of this country have a moral and civic responsibility toward the children of our nation. There are already organizations like UNICEF, Teach for India, etc., that work for these causes.

But, it is time that we, the people of this country stood up for children’s rights and protection - against child labour, child marriage, child abuse, child trafficking and any issues that could be detrimental to the development of children.

{The child is the other form of god on earth. But unfortunately, no one is looking about their problem. Priya is one of them who want to do something for them. She is located in Mumbai. She is working for child rights and as a career counselor.}