The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act
Street people’s attitude towards (free) education.
Every day when I pass by the streets of Mumbai, I get goose-bumps when I see small, young children living on streets and begging for food and money. Their entire day is spent requesting people to help them. Often, they fail to convince people to help them. I wonder why these street children don’t go to schools and get them educated. According to me, education will definitely help them to come out of this horrific world of begging and living on streets.
On Sunday, around 11am, I went to interview street children at Charni Road, Mumbai. I wanted to figure out the reason why don’t they go to schools. Also, I wanted to know whether they are aware about ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act.’
The first street family I interviewed was ‘The Kharwa family.’ I approached Mrs. Manju Naresh Kharwa, a mother of four children.
Me: Kya aapke bacche school jaate hain?
She: Haan, mera bada beta aur choti beti school jaate hain.
Me: School ka naam kya hain?
She: Marwari Vidyalaya High School.
Me: Kaha par hain yeh school?
She: Yahi paas mein hain, Opera House.
Me: Angrezi medium hain?
She: Nahi, Gujarati medium hain.
Me: English medium mein kyu nahi bheja apne baccho ko?
She: Woh log bahut zyaada fees maangte hain.
Me: Apne kaunse English medium school mein try kiya?
She: Kahin pe bhi nahi.
Me: Toh fir aap kaise keh sakte hain ki woh log bahut zyaada fees maangte hain?
She: Hume sab pata hain.
Me: Acha, toh yeh batayeh ki abhi jaha aapke bacche school jaate hain, kya unhone aapse fees mangi?
She: Haan, Rs 540 maang rahe hain.
Me: Aapka bada bete aur choti beti kaun si kaksha mein hain?
She: Sandhya pehli kaksa (1st standard) aur Rohit teesri kaksa (3rd standard) mein hain.
Me: Kya aapko pata hain ki pehli kaksa (1st standard) se lekar aathwi kaksha (8th standard) tak bacchco ko muft (free) mein padate hain?
She: Nahi, hume aisa kuch pata nahi hain lekin pehle jab meri beti Sandhya school jati thi tab woh log use muft mein padate the. Lekin jab woh ek mahine (1 month) ke liye school nahi gayi, tab se woh humse fees maang rahe hain.
Me: Accha! Pehle muft mein padate the Sandhya ko? Woh school kyu nahi gayi ek mahine ke liye?
She: Haan, pehle muft mein padate the. Woh school nahi gayi ek mahiney ke liye kyuki woh bimaar thi.
Me: Ab school jaati hain?
She: Nahi jaati hain kyuki woh humse fees maang rehe hain.
Me: Aur kya apka beta Rohit school jata hain?
She: Haan woh roz school jaata hain, lekin uske liye bhi fees maang rahe hain.
She: Pata nahi.
Me: Toh kya aapne paise diye?
She: Nahi, humare paas paise kaha hain.
Me: Apke pati kya karte hain?
She: Woh saala pura din daru pikar sohta rahta hain. Kuch kaam nahi karta hain. Kuch bolo toh marta hain.
Me: Toh phir aapke paas paise kaha se aate hain khaane ke liye?
She: Mein kamati hoon. Mein phul (flowers) bejti (sell) hoon. Woh saare paise khaane mein aur uss harami ke daaru mein chale jaate hain.
Me: Ab jab apko maine bataya ke, pheli kaksa se lekar aathwi kaksa tak ke sab bacho ko muft mein padane ka act hain, kya aap unke school jaakar school authority se baat karengi, apni beti Sandhyaaur Rohit ko muft mein padane ke liye ?
She: Hum toh there unpaad (illiterate). Hum kya karenge waha jaa kar?
Me: Koshish karenge aap
She: Na-baba-na. Jane do.
With this our conversation ended. I thanked her for her precious time. I left in search for another street family. One my way, I kept thinking about Mrs. Manju’s attitude towards education. I feel like it is ‘them’ (street people) who don’t want their children to get educated. When the school was providing them free education, her child Sandhya did not attend school. And, now when she wants to go to school, the school authorities are asking for fees. Who is too be blamed for this – The child or the school authorities? I have no answer to it.
Walking few miles ahead, I noticed another street family. I approached them. Mrs. Jyoti Prakash, mother of three children.
Me: Kya aapke bacche school jata hain?
She: Nahi jaate hain.
She: Hum har dusre mahine (alternative month) Ahmadabad jaate hain?
She: Woh hamara goan (village) hain?
Me: Kya aapke bacche waha (Ahmadabad) mein padte hain?
She: Meri badi beti Laxmi, joh che (6) saal ki hain, woh school jaati hain.
Me: Kaunse school mein jaate hain?
She: Mein unpaad hoon (illiterate). Mujhe school ka naam nahi pata.
Me: Kya aap abhi apki beti se school ka naam pooch kar mujhe bata sakti hain?
She: Nahi. Woh soh (sleep) rahi hain.
Me: Kya aap waha par fees bharte ho?
She: Nahi. Woh log muft mein padate hain.
Me: Accha! Yeh bataiey aap har dusre mahiney (every alternative month) Ahmadabad jaate ho, toh wahi kyu nahi rukh jaate? Isse aapke bacche ki padai adhri nahi rahegi.
She: Hume ek jagah par acha nahi lagta. Padai ka kya hain. Hum bhi toh padhe nahi hain, phir bhi do waqt ki roti kamate hain.
Me: Agar aapke bacche padenge toh chaar paise aur kaamange. Usse aapko bhi fyda (profit) hoga.
She: Hume pata hain humare liya kya acha hain, Aap hume nah bataiye.
With this our conversation ended. I returned home. On my way, I kept thinking about Mrs. Jyoti’s attitude towards education. Despite, the school providing free education to her child, she didn’t want her child to go to school. Why didn’t she want her child to go to school? Was this because she was uneducated? I have no answer to it. I tried telling her that education is important and she must allow her child to get educated but she seemed to ignore my words.
Often we hear people blaming the government institutions for not following a particular act which is implemented by the government. But here, the scenario seemed to be different. The education institutions are providing free education to all children irrespective to their gender, caste and class but it is ‘the street people’ who don’t want a change. They are happy to be poor. Later, people (elite and poor) blame the government for not taking any initiative to make the country a better place to live in.
T.Y.BMM- Ruchi Nandu