ASSIST, an NGO working for the development of poor and marginalised communities in rural areas, has reported a significant improvement in school attendance as a result of its programs directed at reduction and elimination of the use of child labour by tobacco growers. The project undertaken by ASSIST in collaboration with Philip Morris International (PMI) on “Prevention of Child labour and Rural Development in tobacco growing villages of Andhra Pradesh & Karnataka” is focused on school infrastructure development to promote school attendance, income generation activities and building awareness.
As of now, the program has resulted in children from 62 communities in 57 villages attending school regularly. Around 13400 have started attending school regularly, thereby moving out of the farm workforce. Awareness programs have reached out to over 4530 children through child-to-child workshops. Awareness rallies and cultural programs involving over 12650 children have sensitized around 78000 villagers against child labour. Conducting ‘after school’ programs during peak growing season in over 45 schools have discouraged farmers from involving children in the farms.
Mr K.S.R. Murthy, Executive Director, ASSIST India, said “Child labour is a social evil that not only steals the innocence from a child’s formative years, but also takes away any form of opportunity to develop and grow into an educated human being. Many children in poor communities in rural Andhra Pradesh have been missing the opportunity to get education and charting the path towards a better future. Children in rural areas are being compromised on their right to care and education, given the large looming issues of poverty, illiteracy and lack of infrastructure. It is ASSIST India’s endeavour in partnership with PMI to support these underprivileged and underprovided children by aiding in development of school infrastructure, ensuring they have access to education, equipping them with a skillset for a better life, while safeguarding their exposure to the environment they work in. Our programme has been implemented in schools in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Over the years, we have seen a significant change in the school-going patterns of these children. Students, supported by their parents, prefer to go to schools which now have good facilities and infrastructure. We are pleased at the way in which local communities have joined hands with us in spreading awareness against child labour and encouraging students to attend schools.”
India has a large number of economically active children, estimated at 4.35 million (5-14 years) by the Census of India in 2011. Worldwide 60 per cent of all child labourers in the age group 5-17 years work in agriculture, including farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry, and livestock. The majority of child labour are unpaid family members.