VELLORE: Over 1,100 children from the hill villages in Anaicut Block will assemble on May 30 for a special alumni meet. They are going to enjoy an evening with their parents, teachers and officials from the education department under the programme ‘Malaiyil Punnagai’ (smile on the hills) organised by the NGO Hand in Hand India (HIHI) as part of the Child Labour Elimination Programme (CLEP).
These children in the age group of nine to 16 belong to the Scheduled Tribes community and hail from the hill villages of Peenjamandhai, Palaanpattu and Jarthankauli. Most of them have either never been to school or had dropped out. Now, with the joint initiative taken by HIHI and the Sarva Siksha Abyan (SSA), all the children who were earlier engaged in brick making, cotton plantation and cattle grazing were able to join mainstream education.
According to Lokesh Kumar, Assistant Project Director of HIHI, CLEP was started in Vellore in 2007 and the first day care school for the children was started in Anaicut. As many as 917 children from 67 hamlets in the hills were enrolled in 27 Day Care school, which were later expanded as Residential Bridge Camps (RBC) and Non-Residential Bridge Camps (NRBC). The teachers employed here were also from the same community.
Lokesh Kumar said that the strategy of this organisation was woven around the themes of awareness creation, rehabilitation and mainstreaming of out-of-school children and finally, school strengthening and poverty elimination. CLEP has helped in identifying the children engaged in child labour, rescuing them, providing rehabilitation and imparting education to them, he added.
The NGO has so far created 879 children friendly villages in the five districts of Vellore, Kancheepuram, Thiruvallur, Thiruvannamalai and Tiruppur where nine RBCs and 3 NRBCs were run for the children. As many as 51 transit schools for young adults in the age group of 15-18 years and 642 supplementary evening tuition centres for slow learners in schools are also run in these districts, he added.