In cooperation with the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), JILAF has been implementing a non-formal school project in India since 1999. The aim of the project is to eradicate child labour in districts where the project is implemented by setting up and operating non-formal schools and providing children of primary school age who for economic or other reasons are unable to attend regular public schools and engage in child labour instead with the opportunity to receive education there.
During this period JILAF has changed the districts where the project is implemented every five years, setting up non-formal schools in several places in India. So far JILAF has operated the Kovilpatti School in the state of Tamil Nadu and two Markapur Schools in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Then on June 12, which is designated as the World Day Against Child Labour, JILAF opened the INTUC/JILAF Guntur Learning Centre (Guntur School) in Guntur in the state of Andhra Pradesh in the south of India. The Guntur School, which becomes the fourth school in the project, will be operated for five years.
In India elementary education continues for five years from the age of 7 to 11 years, and the nationwide attendance rate exceeds 80%. However, there are still many children who cannot receive normal education or who enter schools but then drop out for various reasons. This project provides each child with the opportunity to receive education in the non-formal school for two years in the hope that they will then transfer to a public school.
On August 7–8 JILAF visited the Guntur School, which opened in June, to monitor the school’s management and other conditions. The following is a general outline of conditions there.
The city of Guntur, where the school is situated, is located in the center of the state of Andhra Pradesh. It has a population of 750,000 and is the third largest city in the state. Its main industry is agriculture (raw cotton, tobacco, pepper, etc.), and the city exports many agricultural products. There is said to be a large number of children engaged in agricultural work, and child labour can also be seen in cement factories (crushing rocks). The school is located in a residential area of the city.
At present the school accepts 50 children. These children come from various backgrounds. Some of them were going with parents to their workplaces and working there; others did not attend school because they were unable to pay tuition fees due to divorce, the loss of a parent through death, and so on. There are three qualified and experienced teachers giving lessons to these children, one of whom also serves as the school principal. In addition, there are two staff members who prepare the lunches and keep the school clean.
The children are divided into three levels: first grade, second and third grade, and fourth and fifth grade. They attend school from 09:15 until 16:00 every day of the week except Sunday and have six lessons a day in four subjects: English, Telugu (the official language in the state of Andhra Pradesh), arithmetic, and science. Some children have not received any normal education so far, so ages and grades often do not match. For example, there might be an 11-year-old child studying in the first grade.
The school building is equipped with water tanks and water-supply facilities so that water is available for the school lunches, toilets, and taps for washing hands. The school has been praised for its hygiene education, and indeed the children now never fail to wash their hands before lunch and after going to the toilet. In addition, each of the three classrooms has a blackboard, so proper lessons can be conducted there.
Alongside their friends, the children will study at the school for two years from June of this year, when it opened, and then hopefully move on to a public school. (In India the school year is from June until May of the following year.) A new bunch of children will enter the school in June of next year.
|08/07||Fri||Visit Day 1|
|08/08||Sat||Visit Day 2|
A sign for the new non-formal school
A first-grade class with Telugu written on the blackboard
A Telugu class
A child studies Telugu
An English class for second- and third-grade pupils
Children wash their hands properly before school lunch
Children eat their lunch
A water tank and blackboard
Thanks to the water tank and pipes, water is provided for the children to wash their hands