The school set up by the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) of the Central Government in Nandgram, Ghaziabad, is a special one. The entrance to the premises of this school is through a licensed liquor shop and has its canteen at the entrance.
The school premises also doubles up as a makeshift bar and brawls are not too uncommon here.
The school has 50 children, including 17 girls, and classes from 1 to 5. Lessons or not, the students do know the names of liquor brands sold here and some of them have also started eating gutkha, which contains tobacco and betel nut.
The children have had their brushes with the customers at this shop too. “These people misbehave with the girls. The girls’ toilet was broken during a brawl. We use open spaces to relieve ourselves,” said Babli Rani, a student of Class V.
The lone handpump, which is the only source of water here, is frequented by both the schoolchildren and drunk men. People frequently the shop can also be seen loitering around in the ground with their drinks. “They smell foul and beat us like animals when we go to drink water. They beat my brother some time ago,” said Abid Khan, a student of this school.
Schoolteacher Sudha Pandey said, “We are worried about the safety of the girls and ensure that everyone leaves the premises safely after the school. NCLP Project Director, MK Joshi, visited the school on Republic Day and knows about the problem.”
Bhagirath Sewa Sansthan, the society that is running seven such schools, relates selection of premises to shortage of funds. “Our payments are pending since April 2008 from the project director’s office. So, we had to shift here. We have reminded the authorities about the matter several times but they also deny having funds,” said Amitabh Shukla, director of the society.
A teacher also said most children, under this scheme, were to be paid Rs 100 per month after joining school, but could not be paid due to shortage of funds.
Ghaziabad District Magistrate Mrityunjaya Narayan said action would be taken against the erring officials and inquiry would be initiated to find out the reason behind selection of the premises. NCLP Project Director M.K. Joshi was not available for comments.