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Mumbai's neglected localities have an alarming number of out-of-school children

india Updated: Sep 04, 2013 02:20 IST
Apoorva Puranik
Apoorva Puranik
Hindustan Times
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Studies of the city’s demographics always reveal stories of lifestyles particular to certain areas — some localities are home to a dominant religious community, some reflect the preference of an economic class, others may attract a specific age-group.

Few such studies, however are as worrying as the one conducted by The Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children (PCVC), an arm of NGO Pratham, which pointed out exactly which parts of the city had the largest number of out-of-school children.

For instance, more than 121 children in Dharavi alone are out of school, while 258 are working as child labourers.

The NGO devised a way to demarcate the worst-affected ‘nagars’ (a geographical demarcation) in the city and came up with three categories; green, yellow and red. “While green nagars are areas with less than 5 children out of school or working, yellow nagars are areas with 25 or less such children. However, the major problem lies with the red nagars, where more than 26 children from each neighborhood are either out of school or working,” said Tushar Kadam, head of administration, PCVC.

The wards M East and G North, comprising areas such as Mankhurd, Govandi and Dharavi, Dadar and Mahim respectively, are among the worst affected ‘red nagars’ according to the 2012 survey.

A total of 1,575 children from the 19 red nagars in M East ward are out of school, while 255 are working in either hazardous or non-hazardous conditions. The next badly hit area was G North ward, where 121 children were out of school and 258 working.

A majority of child labourers, in and around the city, are employed in zari and leather factories or workshops. In Mumbai, five major areas are the centers of the zari industry — Dharavi, Baiganwadi (Govandi), Patelwadi (Kurla), Tulsiwadi and Kanjarwada (Byculla).

“These areas have many small restaurants, zari factories and other establishments where children are lured with a paltry salary, which makes them leave school,” said Milind Mhaske, director, Praja Foundation.

“The drop-outs in these areas are high as a majority of the residents are migrants. Even when they enroll their children in schools after much insistence, you don’t see them after two months as they move to some other part of the city,” said Rose Joseph, who works with Karunya Trust, an NGO in Govandi.

However, it is not just economic conditions that keep children out of school in these red nagars. A number of differently-abled children live in Dharavi and other such areas, and find it difficult to attend school. “Teachers in public schools do not take interest in paying special attention to children with special needs. Plus, very few schools have facilities such as wheelchair ramps,” said Kadam.

Suffering from muscular dystrophy since birth, six-year-old Jyotsna Venkatesh was never sent to school because she could not walk or grip objects. “I cannot spend my whole day carrying her to school and back. We are waiting to get enough money to arrange for an operation,” said Lalita, her mother.