Children choose education over tea garden work


Children choose education over tea garden work


Six-year-old Junmoni Saikia discontinued her education because her parents, who are daily wagers, do not have time to accompany her to school, which is far. She spends her time playing at her grandparent’s place located in the same vicinity. “I go from village to village selling bamboo products and my wife goes early in the morning to work in the fields. We can’t really focus on the education of our child because we have to have to work very hard to sustain ourselves” says Junmoni’s father. Out-of-school children in the surroundings of tea gardens and villages in the Lakhimpur & Bishwanath Charali districts is a normal sight. For the families living here, the daily sustenance is a priority than ensuring education to their children. As a result, absenteeism and dropout rates are high in the government schools in the district.

The Gross Enrollment Ratio of children in the tea gardens and the surrounding areas is 67.04% compared to the state average of 84.97%. Child labor and trafficking are also hugely prevalent in the tea gardens of Assam. The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights reported that out of 3.4% child laborers in Assam, 1.58% of children work as laborers in the tea gardens of Assam. Junmoni is now in school. Thanks to the efforts of education volunteers of Aide et Action who counseled her parents and came forward to accompany her to school in the absence of her parents. The volunteers are part of the ‘Ensuring Quality Education with the support of Information Technology’ project implemented in 60 primary schools in the two districts. The project focuses on improving enrolment in
schools, and improves quality education among children.

AEA is reviving and empowering the School Management Committees on their roles and responsibilities in school governance. In the past few months, the committees have been witnessing better participation and are striving for the betterment of the children. In one of the schools, the committee along with the community voluntarily repaired the school portico roof as it was leaking during rains causing inconvenience to the children.

The quality of education has seen a considerable rise in the last one year since the project was initiated. The Dikrong Ghat Lower Primary School which scored a grade ‘D’ in the annual school evaluation (Gunotsav) conducted by the government in 2017 has improved its score and stood at ‘A’ in the 2018 evaluation. Additionally, the project also engages in advocacy for the fulfillment of education rights of children and compliance of the Right to Education Act in the schools. It also advocates for citizenship rights of the Adivasi community and engages with the tea garden management and the state department to facilitate enabling the environment to respond to the needs of children, particularly girls and young women. Since the initiation of the project in 2018, 117 children were re-enrolled into the schools.