Tracking “Out of School Children”
www.back2school.in is an online portal developed especially for the Out Of School Children(O.O.S.C)., to monitor the children who were traced and brought back to school, their stay in the school till the age is 14. As we are all aware, India has the largest number of “out of School children” in the world. Despite special programmes like, DPEP, NCLP, INDUS and SSA, a large number of children still continue to be outside the realm of education. Persistence of child labour. visible and invisible, social barriers, parental attitudes, push factors in school etc are critical factors contributing towards this unenviable situation. The socio economic composition of drop out children suggests that educational deprivation occurs most among rural, urban poor and tribal children. The situation of girl children is far worse than that of boys. Usually out of school children get enrolled during intensive enrolment drives. Due to lack of proper tracking and monitoring system, the enrolled children drop out again after some time. It need not be overemphasized that no man, family or Nation can progress unless he/she tastes the potion called education.For these out of school children, childhood as a time to grow, learn, play, enjoy etc is meaningless.
It is under these circumstances that we have developed a web based software for tracking and monitoring all out of school children in the district. We strongly believe that it is possible to reach out to each and every family who require our help, provided the information is available to us. Usually, this may be available in the Village Education Register or through petitions, but these sources of information do not give us a global picture, and hence help given is only here and there. While Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) provides the necessary flexibility for the District Administration in bridging infrastructural gaps, convergence of schemes and funds of various Government Departments and Non Governmental Agencies help us to keep our promise to provide all necessary support to the families to keep the children going to school. Under this programme, all efforts are converged at a single web-based platform @www.back2school.in It was a huge team effort in bringing back and retaining about 10,000 OOSC ( out of school children). But the process was simple..
When I joined the district, I found that the SSA, NCLP (National Child Labour Project), CFVP (Child Friendly Village Planning of UNICEF) were conducting their activities separately. Thus the first job was to integrate and complement the funds, functions and functionaries of these differently funded projects on to one platform...with the OOSC as the main focus and all activities focussed towards bringing back the OOSC back to school. I created a force of volunteers called VVF ( Village Volunteer Force) @ one VVF per village panchayat with about 20 youths above the age of 18 constituting d VVF ( one boy and one girl from each hamlet who otherwise populate Rajanikant manram and the like). Trained them on three aspects... Child labour and OOSC, sanitation and first aid.. UNICEF helped hugely with d training. Thus I had at my disposal a huge team of about 6 to 7 thousand volunteers who were highly motivated. Each VVF has a link volunteer. These volunteers identify, enroll and regularly monitor each and every child and post the details online. If we divide 10,000 OOSC (Out of School Children) by 337 panchayats, then the problem of OOSC becomes simple, on an average about 30 OOSC per panchayat, who can be identified, cajoled to come back to school etc by d VVF. the incentive offered were anything under the sun that a Collector can give ( under d rules ofcourse!)... A house, a loan, employment, crop loan, auto loan, pensions for widows, physically challenged.... Anything..., the only condition being that the child should return to school and continue to be monitored on a monthly basis by the VVF who would feed the data online into an OOSC children tracking software built inside d website www.back2school.in The role played by elected representatives especially the Panchayat Presidents was stupendous.
The software allows the collector or SSA to monitor each and every child whose photo and details are initially captured by the VVF in a pre-determined format. In addition we created the Panchayat Level convergence Committee (PLCC) of all Govt functionaries at the village level who otherwise never meet! For eg if the Village Health Nurse were to meet the VAO periodically, then the question of missing birth certificates won't arise. The PLCC used to be conducted simultaneously in all 337 Village Panchayats on the first Friday of every month for one hour, with a one page agenda from the Collector given through the observers. 337 observers were deputed by me for overseeing the meetings etc. minutes of the meetings ( 337 pages ) would reach the collector the same day... thus we could make it a people's movement... There were numerous other initiatives around this which the website chronicles.
My work as District Collector, Krishnagiri, especially the www.back2school.in initiative was quoted in detail by his excellency Dr.A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of India, during the occasion of the 7th National Civil Services on 21-04-2012