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Archive for the 'MV Foundation' Category

Left but not forgotten

I moved on to a new project today, leaving the incredibly successful MV Foundation (MVF) behind. I will never forget my stay with them and all the things I have learnt.

MVF at the request of ActionAid entered Tamil Nadu 3months after the tsunami to assess the educational needs of those affected. At the time, people were still homeless and grieving, their childs education was the least of their concerns. They needed homes, food, livelihoods and dignity. MVF could offer none of these and as such were the least welcome of the NGO’s who had descended on the area and at the time they met with stiff resistance. However over 2 years later they are still there when many others have left and hundreds of families have successfuly been made aware of the importance of education and motivated to take their children out of labour and into the education system.

On top of that, 70 children - former child labourer’s and school drop-outs - attended this years bridging course camp and every one of them passed their respective exams and have since been enrolled in government schools. Obviously enrolment doesn’t come without incredible difficulties regarding admission fees and numerous other obstacles placed in a poor families way.

A system whereby bribery and corruption is often the only solution is a system that desperately needs to change. For that to happen somebody needs to take responsibility for every step of the administrative chain, and in India, a society laden down by bureaucracy that is a very long chain. Hopefully MVF will remain in the area if further funding is forthcoming. The ActionAid tsunami programme comes to an end in December so there is no guarantee MVF will be able to continue with their work. They still face a huge challenge, in Tamil Nadu there remains thousands of child labourer’s but it is a challenge that must be confronted if children are to enjoy a childhood without labour and a future with real opportunity.

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How bad is the English media?

There appears to be serious problems relating to the Tamil Nadu press reporting of child labour and education issues in the sense that they are not reported at all or they report government figures only. And the Tamil Nadu state government maintains there is only a limited number of child labourer’s in the state.

Why does the real issue of child labour in Tamil Nadu as reported by NGO’s only appear in a newspaper printed in Andra Pradesh? Do Tamil newspapers take the word of the state government as the only truth without any recourse for investigation? Is there a refusal to report the truth or are the government figures just accepted as fact?

The feeling is that because Tamil Nadu is an industrialised state with Special Economic Zones in the pipeline and therefore overseas corporate investment then the press doesn’t want to show the state in a bad light and possibly put off investment.

I don’t know of many cases of corporates risking their profits for the sake of child labourer’s, they just don’t like getting caught using them. Instead of revealing the reality of the situation it would seem the media would prefer to see 12 year old girls working in brick kilns or migrating away from home to work in garment factories in Coimbatore.

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Children’s Enrolment Rally

The Kollidam Block Chairman (Chief of councillors), another local councillor, the DMK Party block leader, and an elected Panchayat representative were all present to address the rally and donate books which suggests support at least at the local council level. The reality isn’t always true to the suggestion though. So the rallies go on…

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A rallying cry

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‘National Child Labour’ day (I’m sure that should be Anti Child Labour Day but I don’t make a fuss) which means I’m off to a rally. We pack up the Auto-rickshaw with placards, drums and loud hailer then 7 of us cram into the auto – I’ve actually been in one with 10 people before so this is quite comfortable although obviously a death-trap but the more the merrier it seems.

The rally is 15kms away and takes about ½ hour to get there and I manage to peel my hands off the bar where I have been hanging on for dear life! When they say rally what they actually mean is a march followed by a sort of rally then of course lunch for everybody that turned up. So it’s national (anti) child labour day and they decide to start at the local government offices and march from there and end up having the rally next to a temple. When I point out perhaps it might be more effective if we started at the temple, march to the government offices and hold the rally in the great big open space outside the government offices it seems to fall on deaf Telegu ears. So we march away from the focus of our attention, through the small town of Kollidam and end up at the temple where we all gather and sit under a nice big tree – I think I’m beginning to understand the true meaning of non-violent protest!

The march is actually a woman’s rally with a collection of all the local women’s self help groups and there’s probably about 70 of us marching (about 20 more turned up later due to the unreliable Indian bus service) singing, shouting and banging a drum. It’s great, a bit of leafleting might have been a good idea since nobody watching seemed to have any idea what it was about or that it was national (anti) child labour day at all. The ‘woman’s’ rally itself, next to a very peaceful temple under a very serene tree was typically addressed by 4 males and one of the female volunteers. I won’t go into my feelings about the empowerment of women at the moment, it’s too infuriating. So we sing some songs, bang the drum and the rally breaks up (lunch is over).

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School admissions start for class 9 today, this is a crucial time for all. Sarra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) – is a government programme to ensure all children complete 8th class. Originally the target was set for 2005, this has now been extended to 2010. This of course can only be a good thing. However, class 8 is only for those up to 14 years old, after which there is no guarantee of an education which leads to high frop-out rates for 14yr olds whose only option is to enter the workforce.

This was compounded by the fact that today some headteachers were demanding higher than average exam results before admission. For those children who had high enough grades the teachers were then demanding admission fees, this is on top of the cost of uniforms, books, and pens. For a child whose father is an agricultural labourer earning 100 rupees per day this is a real burden and another obstacle for their childs continuing education. Without support, these children are often left with no option but to drop-out to live a childhood in labour and an adult life with little opportunity.

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Flaming Rally

An evening rally that could have ended up with the slightly adverse affect of burning down the village!

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Children’s rally

Rallies happen virtually on a daily basis and they invariably involve schoolchildren singing and marching through the village.

This rally is at a tsunami affected village where the problem of child labour and drop-outs is not as bad as other villages because of the influx of NGO’s post-tsunami.

The problem is still there though and the rallies will keep going until it is eradicated…

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The state education officer was present at the meeting and the CRPF members took their turns to complain to her about school facilities, no playgrounds, lack of teachers, introduction of fees and general lack of infrastructure etc etc in the hope she can actually do something about it.

I’m not holding my breath - there appears to be a willingness but then she is a politician and she can hardly say no!

Also handed over a petition with the names of 29 camp children who have passed exams but need hostel accommodation to continue in government schools, hopefully she will be able to secure these places.

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Is there a clash? Caste, class, power, the religious need to maintain a hierarchy. The fact Dalit’s exist at all.

Therefore is exploitation inherent within the culture, if so, then how can child labour ever be overcome?

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Did You Know? When you have to solve a printed maze its a smart thing to start at the end, not at the beginning.