Swathi Subramaniam, PRIA
Education is an important aspect for the foundation of growing children. Education is also important for any country to develop. We need to ask ourselves whether every child in the country has access to quality education. Does the education of poor urban children get equal importance? Just as a country gives measures its development through construction of buildings, roads, bridges etc there has to be equal emphasis on education of poor urban children as well.
What is the present situation of schooling in India for the urban poor? The options available are government schools, municipality schools, aided schools. The quality of education needs drastic improvement in all these schools.
The infant (0-6 years) age group among urban poor gets very little attention. As many of the urban poor women are work for their livelihoods their children get very little attention due to poor support system. They stay back on situations only on days when there is no work. While the children of middle class households go to pre schools and play schools. But the children of informal urban poor stay in the Anganwadis. Before Anganwadis came there were Jhoola Ghar for the infants.
The children are the easy prey for many social evils when they are not taken care of. In secure environment gives rise to such social evils such as sexual abuse, trafficking etc. The fear of eviction of slums affects mostly children.
Here comes the demand and need for affordable crèches. Every slum should have the facility for a crèche. The urban poor have big families and hence the need for crèches is even greater. As per information available: there are 12.52 lakhs Anganwadi Centres (AWCs)/mini-AWCs. Out of these 6.30 lakh (50.28%) AWCs are reported to have toilet facilities, 8.90 lakh (71.05%) AWCs have drinking water facilities within the premises and 3.55 lakh (28.34%) AWCs have separate kitchen as on 31.12.2012.
A regular monitoring and reporting of their functioning must be carried out to know how effectively they are serving their purpose.
Stories from Delhi Slums
Sheela has 4 daughters. The eldest one is 8 years old and does not go to school as she has to take care of her younger sisters. This responsibility to baby sit her younger sister has been forced on the elder daughter despite her tender age. Ideally the elder sister should be going to a regular school and the younger on to a crèche. There was an unfortunate situation once when the elder sister was away for sometime (answering nature’s call) and the younger sister fell into a runnel.
People in slums feel that private crèches are better than Anganwadis. Many Anganwadis have been opened but they are not running efficiently due to various limitations. For example the Anganwadi Kendra should be opened longer durations as poor laborers may be working for long hours or odd hours. The Anganwadis should have sufficient infrastructure and know how to take care of handicapped infants also.
In Delhi, kidnapping among children is another issue of concern. Large number of kidnapping are reported from slums. According to a recent RTI, 14 children every day are kidnapped from Delhi. This shows the need for a more secure environment for the protection of children.
According to Jawahar Singh, JJEM. Whenever a slum rehabilitation takes place children face huge problem due to relocation as the family falls back into the trap of poverty. In the slum settlements the urban poor organized their living according to things available around. But after the allotment of homes to far off places every aspect of life such as livelihood, transportation, schools, crèches etc need to be rearranged. And many of these facilities are not existing in the new locations. For examples urban poor are allotted homes in Bawana which is 20 kms away from the city. Now since Bawana is less developed urban slum dwellers are being made to shift to that place. At present the place lacks sufficient infrastructure and hence difficulties for the relocated people. As the place starts developing there will be schools, hospitals, roads, education institutes etc then the land prices of Bawana will rise and slums will again be evicted and made to put in a place with least development. This is the cycle of slums in Delhi which the slum dwellers permanently fear. Slums are always formed in the process of urbanization and their sustainability is only possible their livelihood and other social facilities are nearby.
Another thing which has come to notice is less nutritious food among urban poor pregnant women. The poor pregnant women do not get adequate Ante Natal Care and required nutrition supplement.
Right to Food is another issue to be addressed towards specifically urban poor infant and urban poor pregnant ladies.
Many of the private big hospitals have made promise to the Government that 10% of patients will be poor. However its implementation can never be monitored in the present form. Ideally these hospitals can adopt nearby poor slums and reach out to them through mobile units regularly.
It is the responsibility of the Government of India to provide poor people with the opportunities of education at all levels. The poor who are able and willing to send their children to the schools and colleges should be provided with the opportunities pursue their education.
The four important aspects for every child are:
First and foremost Government should ensure that no child should be deprived of the above due to their social and economic condition.