EDUCATION: Attendance hit in Rs 100-class

EDUCATION: Attendance hit in Rs 100-class – a classic failure in Bengal only ?!!

Classes going on at a National Child Labour Project Centre in Balurghat - now soon to be shut too ?!! (Mithun Roy)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Balurghat, Sept. 10: Special schools for child labourers are on the verge of shutdown in South Dinajpur, where the attendance has been dwindling since the Rs 100 monthly stipend meant for the students stopped coming 18 months ago.

The teachers of the 40 National Child Labour Project Centres, too, have not been getting their monthly honorarium of Rs 1,500 for six months.

Serving mid-day meals to the government primary schools had become mandatory long back. But when that failed to attract many students whose families are dependent on their incomes, the state government set up the centres with funds from Delhi.

The task of scouting around for child labourers for these schools lies with NGOs. In South Dinajpur, the Red Cross Society is in charge of 15 such schools, where students can register even at the age of 14, unlike other institutions where the age limit for admission to Class I is five years.

The education given in these institutions — they were set up in 1996 — is informal and the entire primary course is compressed to a three-year curriculum with provisions for students to join the mainstream in Class V.

Children in these centres are entitled to Rs 100 each month. “Besides, vocational trainings are also conducted side-by-side on the campus,” said Arun Ghosh of the Red Cross Society.

Usually boys are trained in cycle repairing, while the girls get courses on tailoring during the school hours from 11am to 3pm.

Each school had 150 students. But no government funds have reached the schools since March 2009.

Samntosh Mohanto, a teacher of one of the centres, said the honorarium of Rs 1,500 was not only too little but has stopped altogether.

He feared that the growing tendency among students to desert the schools and look for jobs outside would ultimately bring a complete closure of the institutions.

Rana Saha, who attended one such centre in the Balurghat administrative building, said he was thinking of going to work outside the state. Two of his classmates — Sujay Sarkar and Shambhu Sarkar — have already left for Delhi for work.

District magistrate of South Dinajpur Ashok Kumar Banerjee admitted that the stipends for the students and honorarium for the teachers were not reaching the schools for 18 and six months respectively. “I had personally written to the labour department thrice. I hope the money would reach the schools shortly,” the district magistrate said.

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