About 575 children have gone missing from 25 centres for the urban deprived in Bangalore. A surprise inspection by the the Education Department and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) could not account for these children and further investigation is on.
SSA state project director Subodh Yadav told Express: “Things are not very clear as of now and we are awaiting full details from the centres.”
Run by various civil society groups, these 25 centres for urban deprived children (UDCs) have on record an enrollment of 1,141 children. However, officials found only 379 children in the centres.
“The NGOs said 159 children were back in the mainstream by joining schools, while 28 had been handed over to their parents. That still leaves us with another 575 children and we don’t know where they are,’’ said a senior official from SSA.
The ‘surprise inspections’ were carried out based on a tip-off that “something is fishy” in the UDC centres. “In all probability,” says Nagasimha G Rao from the Child Rights Trust, “these children could have gone back to the streets as their very lifestyle is set on the streets.”
Rao does not rule out the possibility of NGOs showing children who may not exist at all, as the SSA spent `20,000 per child enrolled in these centres for 2012-13. “I also won’t rule out child trafficking, which is a clear violation of Article 35 of the UN Convention on Rights of Children,” he added.
Rao pointed out that in hindsight, Thursday’s inspection, a first of its kind, itself violates Article 25 of the UNCRC that mandates the government to regularly review the condition of such children. The officials are, however, aware of the seriousness of the situation.
An official said: “The NGOs have been asked to furnish complete details of where the remaining children are. How many have been handed over to parents? How many have joined schools and which are those schools? We want to verify everything.”
The UDC scheme, also known as “Chinnara Tangudhama’’ (children’s shelter), started by the SSA in 2010, aims at bringing out-of-school children in urban areas into the mainstream, within a maximum period of one year.
Thirteen teams comprising senior programme officers, block education officers, block resource coordinators and others were formed for Thursday’s surprise inspections.
The teams found that the NGOs are also violating set procedures on enrollment and sending the children back to their schools or parents. “The state-established Child Welfare Committee should authorise both of this, and that does not seem to have been followed by most of these centres,’’ a source said.
R Gopinath, managing director, Sparsha Trust, which runs a UDC centre on Queen’s Road, said the surprise inspections could be because of errors committed by NGOs earlier.
“Now, our term of one year for running the centre has ended and they have asked us to close our centres by May 31. They are calling for new applications for 2013-14’’ he added.