Kids flaunt blank slates, demand education for all

April 23rd, 2008 - 10:09 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) Over 500 children, most of them former child labourers, took out a march with blank slates in their hands here Wednesday, demanding quality and compulsory education for all. They raised slogans as they marched from Jantar Mantar to Parliament Street in the heart of the capital and seemed every bit enthusiastic even in the scorching heat.

They especially raised their voice about one particular issue - they felt the government’s promise to make India 100 percent literate by 2015 seemed unrealistic at the present pace.

“There are still so many children who are out of school. There’s no way the government can fulfil its promise of making India 100 percent literate by 2015,” said 10-year-old Rashida Khatun, sounding way older than her age.

In 2000, India became signatory of the Dakar Declaration and agreed to ‘education for all by 2015′ with milestones like ensuring that every child is enrolled in school by 2003 and that girls will comprise 50 percent of school enrolment by 2005.

The reality, however, still remains far from it.

The children, after the march, gathered at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) auditorium for an interactive session and listed out 17 demands in their charter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

They were joined by Bollywood actress Mahima Chowdhury and director Tanuja Chandra.

Amarlal, one of the children who took the stage and listed out the demands, said that some of their primary demands included spending a minimum of six percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on education and making elementary education a fundamental right.

“We also demand that students should not be made to pay school fee. In most villages and rural areas, parents don’t want to send their children, especially daughters, to school fearing the expenditure,” he pointed out.

“Also, since schools are very far off in rural areas, parents don’t want to send their daughters for fear of security. That should also be looked at,” he said.

Twelve-year-old Amarlal then asked several questions of general knowledge to the rest of the children, but quite often put the adults in a fix!

The campaign was a part of the week-long global campaign for education, carried out in 110 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, demanding similar rights and marking the anniversary of the Dakar goals.

The global action week, as it is called, started April 21 and will conclude April 27.

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