The Chandigarh education department has claimed in its latest Child Mapping Survey for 2013 that kids from all localities are going to school regularly. But a check on the ground reveals the hollowness of the claim.
A team from HT carried out a survey in four areas - Colony Number 4 and 5, Daria and Karsan - visiting once during school hours and then in the evening. Many kids were spotted wearing government school uniforms, but were busy playing on the street.
Sonu, a nine-year-old boy in Colony Number 5, when asked if he studies in a school, said, "No." Asked why, he said, "Abhi Navratra chal rahe hain… Baki nahi pata. (The Navratras are on… I don't know anything else." He said he was enrolled in a government school but did not know which one. When HT visited again, he was still out playing. His elder sister, 15-year-old Shalu, was around, and told HT that they do not go to school at all.
The survey has been called into question after allegations that private schools wanted an all-is-well picture, so that they could argue that there are no poor children left to enroll under the Right to Education Act. The RTE stipulates that every school must enroll 25% kids from economically weaker sections (EWS), and the goevrnemtn pays their fees. But private schools want the government to identify such kids through the mapping, which has now said that no child is out of school.
Here's another example to the contrary. In Colony Number 4, Juhi, a seven-year-old girl, was filling water from a public tap when asked if she studied in a school. She did not respond. Asked if she knew others in who went to school, she said, "Meri saheliyan bhi ghar ka kaam karti hain (My friends also do only household work)."
In such a situation, either the education department ignored all such kids, or parents are not aware that the government would provide free education with meals if they acknowledge that their kids do not go to school.
The level of ignorance was apparent when we talked to Monu, a 10-year-old boy, in Daria. He had had come out to throw the household trash, when asked if he would go to school: "Hum jhuggi mein rehte hain. Mere 6 bhai-behen hain. Mujhe kaam karna hai (We live in shanty, and I have six siblings. I have to work)." School, he said, won't give him any money. He prefers to work, a rag-picker these days. Monu's father Kamal said, "Mujhe 75 rupaye milte hain roz. Usmein kya hoga? (I earn `75 a day. What can we do in that much?)"
Golu, a 10-year-old boy in Karsan, playing cards with his friends, was flummoxed when asked him if someone had asked him about wanting to go to school. "Nahi, koi nahi aya, aur mujhe school nahi jana (No one came. I don't want to go to school anyway),"he replied. Told that he would get free food and clothes at school, he said, "Mera dost jata tha, par kehta hai padhai nahi hoti (My friend used to go to school, but says there is no teaching)."
These are only a few stories, underlining the fact that kids remain out of school despite there being quota for them that includes free studies, food and clothes.
Swarn Singh Kamboj, president of UT Cadre Employees' Union, said, "This entire mapping was done in a haphazard and quick manner because the teachers were also given the duty to oversee exams. We have come to know that the teachers of various schools were forced to conduct the survey. It was mentioned in the education department communiqué that it had to be conducted on priority basis within three days starting from March 21." The results were recently uploaded on the education department website.
A government school teacher who was part of the survey said, "I have seen some teachers filling the forms themselves as they did not want the extra burden. I do not want to disclose names to you, as I might face departmental action."
Chandigarh's director, public instructions (DPI), schools, Kamlesh Kumar told HT, "I had gone to a government school in Sector 33 to know how many students attend. There, I saw full attendance." He added, "The perception about government schools is not true at all."
When told about HT's findings, he said, "A new issue has been raised by HT, and I will look into the matter. We will definitely work towards providing education to every child."