A few days ago, a report in the Times of India mentioned that around 2.5 lac children have dropped out in Maharashtra alone after passing Class IX. The information came into limelight when enrolment data for class X board was compared with students passing out.
The board authorities attributed this to migration of families to their native states. To an extent, this reason might be true. Ideally, this should have led to an increase in enrolment in other state boards. One cannot comment on this in the absence of data.
While the report pertains to Maharashtra, the story of other states in the country including Delhi would be no different. We are back to square one. With the right to education Act coming into force, we could see a considerable increase in enrolment of children to schools. However, the pandemic has affected the education of many. The digital divide has made education inaccessible for many. A survey says that only 30 per cent of the children in India have access to mobile devices.
After the second wave, there is another risk that children are being subjected to. The death right has been quite high during the last two months. Many children have lost their near and dear ones. It becomes easier for an adult to cope with such loss. However, for children, it is certainly a traumatic phase.
Besides, the trauma children are going through, they face a huge risk of dropping out of school and losing interest in education. Deepalaya has always strived for the rights of children. Our team has been working in the field for assessing the status of children and their families. The stories from the field are horrifying to say the least.
Eight-year-old Radhika (name changed) has not been the same ever since she saw her father gasping for breath in her house. Her uncle took him to the hospital but has not returned since then. Little does she know that her father would never come back. She has seen her mother weeping during the day and many times, in the night when she is alone. She is confused. What has stopped her father from coming back? And why does her mother often weep? Her uncle, who took her father to the hospital, no longer visits the house. Her elder brother has no answer to her questions. “When will papa come back,” she has been asking incessantly but to no avail.
Her brother, Amit (name changed) is equally affected. He is only twelve but is in two minds. Should he work outside so that his mother and sister can have food? Or focus on his studies. This is one of the stories that one of our project heads told.
Of course, our team came to their rescue. But for the guidance from Deepalaya, Amit would have certainly moved out. Imagine, a 12-year-old lifting bags, or picking rags or begging for alms on the street. There are thousands and thousands of such children, who are on the verge of dropping out of education or being forced to work!
Deepalaya has formulated a unique project, aptly known as Project Butterflies to support children, who have lost one or both of their parents due to Covid-19. The project will focus on providing much needed psycho social support to the family members, including children and ensuring that these children do not drop out of schools. Their educational expenses will be taken care of, thanks to Glen India, who has partnered with us.
The project will also involve schools as stakeholders. Our team shall be in continuous touch with the schools not only for negotiating the fee structure but also to see whether the students are paying attention to the academics. In view of the digital divide, we will make sure they have access to devices as well.
We have already identified around 42 children, who have lost their parents. Their future is now in safe hands. We wish to reach out to more and more. As a reader, you can help us in reaching out to the neediest child in Delhi NCR by clicking on the link below. Your efforts can help in protecting the future of such children!
The writer is the executive director of Deepalaya