Village Volunteer Force
It was a huge team effort in bringing back and retaining about 10,000 OOSC (out of school children). How to meet this challenge was solved after brainstorming with my team of officers.If we divide 10,000 OOSC by 337 panchayats, then the problem of OOSC become simple; on an average about 30 OOSC per panchayat, who can be easily identified, cajoled to come back to school etc. by preferably volunteers. Thus was born the concept of the Village Volunteer Force (VVF) or Grama Thannarva Padai, who would help a lending hand to the district administration in many matters including tracking and monitoring OOSC!
We created a force of volunteers called VVF (Village Volunteer Force) at the rate of one VVF per Village Panchayat with about 20 youths above the age of 18 , with one boy and one girl above the age of 18 from each habitation, constituting the VVF (boys and girls who otherwise populate the different manrams and the like in villages, extolling the virtues of film stars and the like). We trained them on three aspects: 1.Child labour and OOSC 2. Sanitation 3. First aid. UNICEF helped hugely with the training. The idea was to convert each VVF into a Youth Group under Mahalir Thittam (program for SHGs being led by the Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women Ltd), so as to incentivize them to be a group.
The incentive offered to OOSC and their parents was anything under the sun that a Collector can give (under the rules of course!) A house, a loan, employment, crop loan, auto loan, pensions for widows, physically challenged, Government job as noon meal worker or cook etc.... Anything… the only condition being that the child should return 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.baack2school.in
The Village Volunteer Force of about 8000 volunteers would bring all kinds of things to my notice, and if it concerned education of children directly or indirectly, immediate action would be taken! In fact in the monthly Law and Order meetings, I was more armed with facts and figures and L&) issues. Thus helped us to pre-empt many a problem or nip it in the bud itself!
When i as at South Korea in March 2008 for training I received a call from my Link Volunteer from a village adjoining Bangalore, that a couple of people who had come from across the border had died probably after drinking spurious arrack! I laughed at him! But as a matter of abundant precaution I called up the CM's office and informed the CM's Secretary! He was a little amused!
But next day came the news that more than 150 people died in the worst hooch tragedy of the region. It killed 47 people from my district and more than 100 from Bangalore!