Despite the Right to Education Act, access to education is an everyday struggle for many Indian kids because of challenges like inaccessibility to schools and unavailability of teachers.
At a conference organised by child rights group, CRY, in the capital Thursday, six children from rural areas of states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh spoke about the everyday challenges they have to face to go to school.
Sunil Chandelkar, a 12-year-old boy from Madhya Pradesh, said the biggest challenge for him to go to school is the distance.
"The RTE Act talks about compulsory education to children between the age six and 14 which means up to class eight. But our village school has classes only till fifth standard and after that we have to go to the upper primary school in the next village which is more than three km away," Chandelkar said.
"There are private school buses but they refuse to take us because we can't pay such high amount. So we decided to write to the education minister of the state. We then had a meeting with the private bus owners and now the matter has been resolved," he added.
According to a 2009 report, there are 17,282 eligible habitations which don't have a primary school within a one kilometre radius. Uttar Pradesh leads the pack with 7,568 school-less habitations.
In addition to that, there are 26,513 habitations which don't have an upper primary school within a three km radius.
Mahendra Singh, another child from Rajasthan, said unavailability of teachers in his school is the biggest challenge. Singh is also the head of the Bal Panchayat, a body comprising of children which takes up issues concerning kids like them.
"Our village school had only three teachers for 500 kids. Despite repeated requests to the district officials, nothing changed. Finally we kids went on the road and stopped the traffic, demanding our voices be heard. Only then did the officials wake up and within a week we had three new teachers," Singh said.
For Chanda, a 15-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh, the challenge was from within her family. Her mother wanted to marry her off but she resisted and refused to eat anything in protest.
"But that did not work. So then I approached the Bal Panchayat of my village and after discussing the matter, I tried to talk to my mother and make her understand that education could help me stand on my feet. That worked and now she encourages me to study hard," she said.
According to CRY, more than 80 lakh children in the age group of six to 14 are out of school.