During the initial needs’ assessment in the mica mining region, the lack of education emerged as one of the key reasons for child labour. The interior villages of Koderma (Jharkhand) and Nawada (Bihar) districts had no schools for children. Those who wished to study would have to travel to the nearest primary schools, which were more than 10 kilometres away. The risk of travelling through the forest forced children and parents to decide against attending the school. Due to this, the community was largely uneducated, unskilled and highly dependent upon mica for their livelihood.
Since 2005, the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation has worked on ensuring children receive quality education through different initiatives outlined below.
In 2005, KSCF opened a non-formal school in each 9 selected villages (Meghatari, Bishntikar, Barakura, Kushana, Haraiya, Dhodhakola, Basron, Saphi, and Faguni/Topapahri) as part of an intervention to eliminate child labour from mica mining and provide preparatory education to children. 7 out of 9 schools were handed over to the state government for management between 2007 and 2009. Currently, KSCF is running two schools, in Topa Pahari and Faguni villages. Children are educated up to class 5th (primary school), and for upper primary school, they attend the government schools nearby.
● Since 2005, 360 children have attended this school and have enrolled in formal education.
In 2010, KSCF started working with children, communities, stakeholders’ groups and School Management Committees to identify out-of-school children and enroll them in the school. The team conducted extensive household visits, counselled families, encouraged children and held meetings with the teachers and School Management Committee to facilitate education for all children.
Bal Panchayat members helped identify out of school children before the beginning of every academic session.
● Since 2010, 19,920 out of school children have been enrolled in school through our annual school enrollment drive, ‘School Chalo Abhiyan’
For young people interested in pursuing secondary and senior secondary education, the only option would be to travel to other towns.
Inaccessible terrain and limited transportation facilities would lead to parents being unwilling to let their children, especially girls, travel so far. This led to increased drop-out rates. Transportation issues, high travel costs and safety-related concerns were the main reasons aggravating this problem.
The Bicycle Distribution Program, supported by Triskeles, was started with the aim of supporting girls to continue with their education at the secondary and senior secondary level by providing them with a safe and cost-effective means of travel to school. Jharkhand state government took cue from this intervention and started bicycle distribution for children from 2011.
● Since 2007, we have supported 922 girls to continue their education.
School Management Committees (SMCs) were created under the Right To Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Their purpose is to engage community participation in order to monitor the education status in schools. SMCs provide parents/community a platform for interaction and formal engagement for planning, implementing and monitoring developmental programmes in schools. They help create a feeling of ownership among the primary stakeholders (parents) and build stronger partnerships between the school and community.
● Promotion of parental and community involvement in decision making
● Hold teachers and headmasters accountable for education delivery
● Ensure transparency in the functioning of schools
● Ensure every child goes to school
● Work towards improved learning outcomes for children
KSCF works with schools and Block Education Officers to ensure functional SMCs in every school associated with a BMG. We build their capacities by providing training on RTE, their roles and responsibilities and how to achieve the goal of education through the Right To Education Act.
● SMCs are functional in 171 schools across 171 villages
● KSCF continues to strengthen the existing SMCs and ensure that their voices are heard by the government.
One of the first steps the Bal Mitra Gram™ (BMG™) programme does is to ensure functional schools in villages through multiple activities, led by the Bal Panchayat (Children’s Council) members, women and youth groups. These include sending applications to government officials, the education department etc. and holding meetings and rallies.
Communities have also realized that the lack of access to secondary education is a growing concern. Most of the schools in the mica mining region have classes up to primary or upper primary levels (Standard V or VIII). The absence of adequate public transport, safety and security concerns about long-distance travel would often force children, especially girls, to discontinue their education.
Over the years, the Bal Panchayat members, community members and the BMG™ team have held meetings to discuss possible solutions for the villages in this region. Child leaders suggested opening residential schools like “Kasturba Vidyalaya” and increasing seats in existing “Kasturba Vidyalaya” to enroll more girls. Children and community members collectively have shared their concerns with the district administration, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and state government through letters. They have demanded the upgrade of existing primary and upper primary schools to secondary and senior secondary schools.
● In 2021, during a public dialogue held in Koderma attended by Mr. Ramesh Gholap, Deputy Commissioner (DC), Priti Kumari, a Bal Panchayat leader from Devpur village, spoke about the lack of secondary education. She urged the administration to take necessary action to upgrade the schools, especially those closer to the forest areas. As a result of this, the Commissioner announced that funds for a school building in Meghatari village had been approved and that the school construction would be expedited.
● As an immediate outcome of a grassroots mobilization campaign led by children, Dr Neera Yadav, MLA of Koderma and former Education Minister of Jharkhand, raised the need to upgrade schools (repairing infrastructure, adding new classrooms etc.) in the state assembly. She emphasized the need for upgrading the primary school in Dhab Panchayat up to senior secondary level (Class XII).
Completing their education is the only way for children from vulnerable and marginalised communities to protect themselves and the next generation from exploitation. In order to explore employment opportunities, it is important that children complete their Grade 12 which will make them eligible for better job opportunities. Since 2005, KSCF has been working to ensure that children in the mica mining region complete their education and has simultaneously been advocating for free and compulsory education till Grade 12.
To bolster our on the ground activities, 22 new associates have joined the BMG team, specifically for the technical support programme. These include former leaders from the Bal Panchayat and youth groups. They are Nikita Kumari (former Bal Panchayat, Dhab), Priti Kumari (former Bal Panchayat leader, Devpur village), Raj Kumari (former child leader, Faguni), Inkaj Kumar (Anjanwa village), Neeraj Murmu (youth group member and 2020 Diana Award) and Pankaj Kumar (child leader, Jamdar village) besides others. While creating this team, KSCF ensured inclusion, diversity and gender equality by recruiting female candidates and former child leaders, who with their history of leadership and completion of standard 12 made them excellent candidates.
Children living in rural areas were severely impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. With physical classes closing down to break the chain of spread of the virus and with little or no access to technology, attending classes online – vital for ensuring continuity of education – became one of the biggest roadblocks.
To prevent this from hampering their education, the BMG™ team and Corona Warriors Committee, composed of local stakeholders, began working to support local communities. They started distributing worksheets for children studying in classes 1-5. School teachers closely monitored distribution and work done on the worksheets.
● We have positively impacted 5,300+ children from 70 villages through the program