The RTE Act, 2009, guarantees children’s rights to free and compulsory education in India. In spite of the law, a large number of our urban children are still out of school

Rural to urban migration uproots people, forcing many to settle in slums, low lying and unhygienic areas and urban fringes. As the families strive for a living in a hostile, unhealthy environment, schooling takes a back seat. Climate change pressure and growing vulnerabilities to disasters makes it rather difficult for children to attend school, or to continue their studies if enrolled.

Does climate change worsen a child’s chance to be go to school?

A study ‘Urban Governance and Urban Climate Change Resilience‘ was conducted across 5 Indian cities: Shimla, Indore, Gorakhpur, Panjim & Guwahati. It was observed in the sample cities that climate change is posing threats to children on issues pertaining to survival, food security, health, as well as access to water and sanitation, education and protection.

Here’s a look at the factors that affect children’s education in the context of climate change:

  • Floating population: A large number of migrants move to the cities for a temporary, limited duration. The children, like their elders, have no identification documents or birth certificates and are unable to register in the schools in the new place. Although, some governments have taken an initiative to issue birth certificate/identity merely by providing self- affidavits, the migrant community may be completely unaware of this facility. Also in inter-state migration, due to lack of grade based learning compatibility enrolment of these migrant children becomes problematic.
  • Dislocations: Distressed migration in the city from the neighbouring rural areas occurs, people settle themselves in the fragile areas of the city with no access to schools. Children are engaged in child labour activities like working as house-maids, in shops, hotels, etc. Survival becomes more important than education for those residing in these slums and hence, children are not sent to schools.
  • Unsafe settlements: There are no government schools in areas which are not cleared for residential purposes, where the migrant community usually settles. In residential areas the increasing waterlogging and water stagnation, fear of security of girl child, schools being on the other side of busy roads are a few examples which hinder the access of schools. Children rescued from child labour, begging, addiction, petty crimes need special attention and more efforts.
  • Disruptions: Climate change impacts are causing intense weather conditions which disrupts the schools. Increasing diseases, especially in vulnerable locations, cause breaks in schools attendance leading to drop outs. The recent hepatitis outbreak in Shimla, malaria and Japanese Encephalitis in Gorakhpur, drinking water related illness in peripheral Panjim and Guwahati are some of such examples which cause negative effect on children’s education.
  • Behavioral: Certain communities hesitate to send children to schools. Muslim communities in Khajrana locality in Indore, climate refugees in Gorakhpur, slum dwellers in Panjim and other such groups expressed that they are not keen to educate the children due to safety or economical reasons. Caste and gender based discrimination is common. The lack of functional toilets with water is also another cause for adolescent girls to drop out of school.

These factors impede a child’s education, creating greater challenges in the face of climate change.

This is the second blog based on the study ‘Urban Governance and Urban Climate Change Resilience ‘ by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, supported by UNICEF, New Delhi.

Lead image courtesy: John Marshall via Wikipedia

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