In its 69th year of independence, India is continuing to make its mark globally. The country’s growth in areas of service sector, infrastructural developments, and scientific breakthroughs are a testimony to its accomplishments. Yet, almost seven decades after India won its freedom, millions of children are anything but free and for them education still remains a distant dream. 1 in every 4 children in the country is out of school and only 33 out of every 100 children finish their class 12th. With lack of access to education, many children cannot even write their own names. The reasons for children being deprived of their right to education include no schools nearby, gender discrimination, early marriage, forced into labour and many more.
When a child is able to go to school, it sets off a cycle of positive change. An educated child stays away from an early marriage and is empowered to stand up against exploitation. As children grow, they are able to make better choices for themselves and influence the communities they live in. This transforms their present life and ensures a secure future for them.
In over 3,118 villages and slums across 142 districts in 23 states, CRY – Child Rights and You, an Indian NGO working for children’s rights in India has witnessed transformational change happening. We have seen children dream big and have overcome insurmountable social, economic obstacles through sheer courage and determination to change the world they live in. All they need is an opportunity to realise their dream, communities becoming aware of their rights and coming together to ensure them. Not just by enrolling children in schools but by addressing the root causes that keep them malnourished, illiterate, exploited and abused. Causes like gender, caste, livelihoods, displacement and governance.
Take the example of Naveen hailing from the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. His father’s meagre income was not enough to sustain their day to day life and the young boy had to drop out of school to start work at a tea stall. The team at CRY-supported project People’s Organisation for Rural Development on gaining knowledge of his plight immediately started convincing his family to send him back to school. The journey was slow and tedious but with the help and intervention of village authorities, Naveen was enrolled back into school.
Going to school again helped his confidence and leadership qualities shine through- and cultivated his latent ability of a budding engineer. Naveen noticed that there was a lot of pollution around his school from cooking fires and he began work on finding a solution. His invention of finding an eco friendly, cost effective, zero pollution way to cook won him recognition and awards not only at the district level but nationally as well. Many of the schools nearby, including his own started adopting this method to cook mid-day meals. Today, Naveen is set on his dream of becoming an engineer and helping children like him also find a way to improve their skills.
In 2015-16, CRY impacted the lives of 6,45,000 children and their families. 9,581 children in the age group of 6-18 years who had dropped out of school were re-enrolled across our project interventions in India. Along with our grassroots partners, CRY prevented closure of 52 government schools, ensured 29 schools were upgraded and with education bodies aided in 11 new schools starting. Our approach involves working with the local authorities, ensuring on-ground implementation, working on behavioural and attitude shift of communities and mobilising them to lead change.
CRY’s nationwide campaign – ‘School the Spark’ aims at strengthening its efforts in addressing challenges that children face to access their basic right to education by ensuring children do not drop out of school and explore the potential of their abilities remains unexplored. Join the campaign at www.cry.org/school-the-spark and support the mission to ensure a happy and healthy childhood for India’s children.