“We know that poverty often pushes children to work, yet when children leave school early to enter the labor force they are more likely to end up in occupations that limit their chances of breaking out of poverty. “
Education is a key component of any effective effort to eliminate child labour. For child labour, there are many interlinked explanations. No single factor can fully explain its persistence and growth in certain cases. The way various causes interact with each other at different levels ultimately determines whether an individual child becomes a child labourer or not.
Child labour is a blot on our society and each one of us should fight against this inhuman practice, widely prevalent in homes and at workplaces. employers of small and large enterprises, and our citizens, should resolve not to employ children and not to encourage child labour, directly or indirectly. The perpetuation of this unjust tradition which instead of nurturing and investing in our children consigns them to lives of despair and degradation should be stopped.
Children’s participation in the labour force is endlessly varied and infinitely volatile, responding to changing market and social conditions. The flexibility of the large, unprotected, potential child labor force matches this context. Poverty and social exclusion, labor mobility, discrimination and lack of adequate social protection and educational opportunities are all involved in influencing the outcomes of child labour.
India’s Mid-Decade Assessment of Education for All highlights the fact that close to half of children left school before reaching Grade 8 with higher drop-out rates for SC children (55 out of 100) and the highest for ST children (63 out of 100).
Education must be placed at the centre of the national strategy for combating child labour, with the age for compulsory and free education provision raised from 10 to 14. There are a wide variety of national programmes and projects in place aimed at expanding opportunities for education. But the National Education Policy lacks both a coherent strategy for preventing children aged 6-14 being drawn out of school and into labour markets – and a strategy for getting children out of labour markets and back into school.
There should be a single integrated strategy spanning the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education and the Ministry of Education. Raising the age for compulsory and free education to 14 would support India’s wider goals in education and child labour, provided the right enabling environment is put in place to counteract the pressures forcing children to enter labour markets. India is underinvesting in education. The underfinancing of education is reflected in the limited availability of public-school provision in slums, classroom overcrowding and a range of education quality concerns. While there is scope for enhanced efficiency in education spending, expanded financial resources and greater equity in resource allocation have a critical role to play in expanding opportunities for education in slum areas.
As an indicative target, India should aim to spend 4–5% of national income on education by 2020. Aligning the level and timing of transfers with the critical risk factors associated with school drop-out (in particular, late enrolment and grade repetition) could increase the efficiency of transfers. However, interventions in education cannot be considered in isolation. Education outcomes will be determined in part by the degree to which the most vulnerable households are insulated through wider social protection measures from the exogenous shocks associated with food price increases, flooding and other events that increase poverty. Urgent action is needed to improve the learning environment.
Children living in slums experience, in acute form, the wider education quality problems evident in India – and many carry the consequences of an abysmal learning experience with them into the world of work. The very low levels of learning reported in the early grades and the limited value of an additional year of schooling point to systemic problems. As highlighted in previous sections, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of teaching, and teachers should be better-trained and supported to help first generation learners. At the same time, slum-dwelling children carry with them into the classroom the disadvantages that come with poverty and non-literate home environments.
Evidence from a range of developing countries suggests that early childhood programmes can be highly effective in addressing these disadvantages – and there are compelling grounds for the development of a national programme to deliver universal early childhood programmes in slum areas.
There is no better investment for a society than education, educating children today, have a lifelong impact on their health, nutrition, employment and growth. Essentially, education is a fundamental human right currently denied to 75 million children
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