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Areas of Focus

Education

When ARC was first set up, even access to government schools was a problem for many disadvantaged children, with documentation like birth certificates being demanded. Getting children into school, off the streets and away from child labour were the major concerns of the member organisations in the 90s and first decade of the 21st century. Ensuring access to PMC schools for children in the fringe and developing areas of the city was another major area of concern. In the years since the enactment of the RTE, the focus has shifted to the quality of education being provided in government schools. Full enrollment has still not been achieved, with migrant children on building sites and begging on the streets still an area of priority. Keeping children attending school regularly is also tied up with the issue of quality – parents tend to take children out of school if they feel they are not learning very much, and children too drop out when the ‘burden of incomprehension’ becomes hard to bear. ARC is now focusing on advocating to the PMC for improving access to school for Children With Special Needs and other out-of-school children. ARC is also working towards involving communities in understanding and supporting the assessment of learning levels of children at the elementary levels. Another area of advocacy is ensuring admissions under the 25% quota in private schools mandate under the RTE

Child labour

ARC was a founding member of the national Campaign Against Child Labour which has been on the forefront for advocacy and lobbying for changes in the child labour laws, and continues to be an active participant in the campaign. At the Pune level, ARC has led awareness campaigns in housing societies against employment of domestic child labour and in restaurants and hotels against employing children below 14 years. ARC is also a member of the city-level Anti-Child Labour Task Force and has participated in many raid- and –rescue operations of cases of child labour. With the increase in young working couples with no family support in Pune, the employment of young girls for domestic labour has been seen to be on the increase, though this is a hidden work force that is hard to identify and quantify. ARC continues with efforts to raise awareness on the issue, as well as keep up the pressure on the labour department and the task force to implement the law more strictly and bring the employers to book while making all attempts to repatriate the rescued children to their families. With its contacts with other NGO members of CACL, ARC is also in a position to follow up on the rehabilitation of the rescued children.

Child protection

In the past few years, there has been an increase in the numbers of cases of CSA, and ARC has often been approached for help and follow up of cases. Poor and insensitive handling of cases by the police and hospitals has added to the trauma of survivors. Awareness raising and vigilance amongst children, parents, teachers, the police and society at large are the only ways of minimizing this problem. ARC is building capacity within the network to be able to conduct such awareness raising activities and build a network of referral support for the affected children. Harsh corporal punishment of children is still rampant in schools and homes. Raising awareness about the long term ill effects of this, as well as taking action against teachers who are guilty of such actions is part of ARC’s mandate

Child Participation

ARC has always believed that while adults should be involved in ensuring that children’s rights are not violated, children too should be educated and empowered to advocate for their own rights. In the past ARC has organised training sessions for member organisations to help them to understand child participation more deeply. Many members have started children’s committees which are active in discussing and identifying child rights violations in their schools and communities and also in taking action against corporal punishment and child marriage. ARC Juniors has been formed, which is a group of child representatives from member organisations. ARC is developing this group of youngsters through workshops, visits and discussions to be advocates for the rights of children in Pune.

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