Monday, May 01, 2006

Education still a distant dream for street children

Kolkata, April 19: In a recent survey by some NGOs in Kolkata it has ben revealed that education amongst the homeless, or rather the street children, is on the back burner. Even though elementary education for children in India is a fundamental right, it is noticed that many of the homeless or street children are being continuously deprived of this right.
Says Shabir Ahmed of Calcutta Samaritans, an NGO that works in projects concerning the pavement dwellers, “Elementary education is a fundamental right and it is guaranteed in the Constitution of India. But reports show that many street children or homeless children are not receiving the basic education.”
Generally the parents shy away from sending their wards to the local schools but Ahmed emphasises that it is not the reason for such high percentage of street children not receiving elementary education.

There are two primary reasons for the discrepancy. “The main reason being the educational institutions going beyond the reach of the homeless. They are either too far placed from the places where these homeless put up or they are too costly for them to afford,” said Ahmed.
The other reason is the great deal of discrimination that is practiced against the homeless. “The school authorities often treat them with scorn and contempt. If they approach the schools and request the authorities to admit their wards, they are often shooed away on grounds of untouchability and so on,” said Ahmed.

Many NGOs are currently running activity centres and story-telling centres but they are not enough to educate the children at the basic level right away. “There are around 60,000 homeless in Kolkata and children constitute a major proportion of the number. So the state government should look into the matter so that the funds sanctioned by the Centre for basic education does not remain unspent,” Ahmed said.

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