“Children like me, from really poor families, are sent to work because there aren’t any good schools near home,” said Bano Khan, 13-year old child president of a local children’s group.
Bano Khan’s family runs a street tea stall in the Badli Industrial Area, one of New Delhi’s several slum resettlement colonies.
“The school closest to my home is three km away, and my parents cannot afford to pay R200 a month for the bus fare,” she said.
Mahendra Singh is the head of his Bal Panchayat in Birothi, Rajasthan. Their local school had only three teachers for 500 students.
When repeated applications to the local panchayat did not work, this Bal Panchayat stopped traffic on the highway, forcing district officials to take notice. Within a week, three new teachers were posted at the school.
“Every official listens to us now. We have everyone’s phone numbers and regularly write to officials.”
Khan and Singh were part of the group of six children from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh who shared their views and experiences on the access to education in the Capital on Thursday.
They were part of an event organised by Child Rights and You (CRY).
Although the Right to Education Act has been implemented, the children said that they have to fight odds every day to reach school.
“What children’s voices underscore is that children have the ability to demand accountability and secure the right to free, quality education,” said Anita Sharad, General Manager, CRY.
“Given their collective power as changemakers, it is time that children’s voices, opinions and needs should be included while implementing the Right to Education Act,” added Sharad.