Path to school not easy for kids of Hyderabad's Jawaharnagar slums

The path to school for these children is fraught with problems and dangers.

Published: 14th November 2022 08:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th November 2022 08:45 AM   |  A+A-

A class underway on the entrance to Chennapur Primary School in Jawaharnagar | VINAY MADAPU

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Children of ragpickers living in Shantinagar, a backward low-income neighbourhood, which is situated next to the Jawaharnagar dumping yard in the Medchal-Malkajgiri district, have dropped out of school after being enrolled only recently. While the exact number of kids who have dropped out is not known, it is estimated to be around 30.

The path to school for these children is fraught with problems and dangers. “The school is situated nowhere near to us. Even the bus stop, where free government buses come to pick up the students, is around three to four km away from the basti,” said Jahangir Bee, a Shantinagar resident.

It becomes difficult, especially for girls and children below 10 years of age, to walk such long distances alone amid fears of being sexually harassed or catcalled on the deserted road to school. While kids across the country celebrate Children’s Day, attending school for these and thousands of other children living in 100 slums of Jawaharnagar, each of them consisting of 500 to 2,000 families, remains a distant dream. While the law mandates that a primary school be established within a distance of 1 km and an upper primary school within 3 km of a neighbourhood, there is no school within the five to seven-km radius of their homes.

There are only two high schools and four primary schools in the entire area. In absence of resources, they deal with infrastructural and personnel issues as well. For the 1,028 students from classes 6 to 10 in the Jawaharnagar High School, there are only 17 teachers. There are only 18 classrooms, which include a digital classroom, a computer lab and one kitchen, which students claim has been not operating for a while. “We have the capacity to accommodate only 450 students,” said K Shekhar, the school headmaster, adding that students are having to suffer owing to the lack of resources.

Many children of migrant workers were denied admission in these schools as they didn’t have Aadhaar cards | VINAY MADAPU

Out of the four primary schools, Chennapur Primary School suffers the most. As per the information provided by Bhavani Devi, a teacher in the school, the original building has been locked as it’s on the brink of collapse. Teachers and students alike are awaiting a new school building for the last two years.
“The school has no compound wall and is close to the main road. A student in Class 5 was hit by a car and fractured her leg two months ago while waiting for her parents after school,” said MD Sadique, a vegetable seller from Bihar who stays in Narasimha Swamy Colony.

‘Institutional neglect’

Considering that most of the families living in the slum areas have migrated from Bihar, Karnataka and other States, their children don’t have the documents necessary for enrollment in schools. Many of the kids were denied admission as they didn’t have Aadhaar cards.

“The issue was solved recently after the District Educational Officer (DEO) ordered the headmasters and principals of schools to enrol students without Aadhaar cards. However, if the scores of out-of-school children suddenly decide to join school tomorrow, would it be fair on our part to burden the already over-burdened schools,” said Hima Bindu, a child rights worker.  She added that the schools are facing legitimate problems and are subject to institutional neglect.

The issue of connectivity is another problem that these students face. The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) bus, sometimes, can’t reach the slums due to the poor condition of the roads. While at some places, like Shantinagar, the bus stop itself is away from the slum.

Threat of addiction

“With no access to school and any other forms of formal education, children tend to drop out and end up becoming victims of child labour and child marriages. Also, we have observed that few children succumb to peer pressure, poverty and other supplementary conditions and are prone to be addicted to drugs,” said Badugu Chennaiah, senior manager of Child Rights and You (CRY), an NGO that works for the rights of children.

He added that through the direct tracking of about 1,500 children belonging to below-poverty line (BPL) communities in five slums — Shanthi Nagar, Gabbilalapet, Giri Prasad Nagar, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar and Santosh Nagar — a total of about 100 students have dropped out of school and 72 are engaged in child labour.  “So far, five child marriages have been stopped by the intervention of CRY in the last year,” he said. Despite several attempts, TNIE was unable to reach I Vijayakumari, DEO, Medchal-Malkajgiri district.

However, Iyanna, the assistant statistical coordinator in the DEO office, called on her behalf. “We tried to enrol three students to the urban residential school some days ago. To our surprise, the children ran away from the school after a few days,” she said.

No ray of hope

With an insufficient number of educational institutions, there is no smooth transition from Anganwadi to primary school and from high school to further education for the kids. Children attend Anganwadi up to the age of eight years but discontinue education afterwards. The nearest junior college to Jawaharnagar is also 20 km away. Instead, parents prefer marrying off their daughters and asking sons to work to earn.
All these issues can be effectively addressed if the government sanctions two more high schools and one primary school in this area, said vegetable seller Chennaiah.

If provided with at least one or two more schools, the parents will be ready to send their children for studies and a majority of the issues that they face can also be resolved if new schools are set up. However, until that happens, access to schooling remains a major problem for the children of Jawaharnagar.


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