Children begging on streets, seeking help to pay school fees
Over the past few weeks, an increasing number of children have been begging for money. What’s got activists and NGOs more worried is the reason they are giving while asking passers-by for money: their education. They have been spotted holding a piece of paper on which someone has written that they need money to pay their school fees, said staff at the ChildLine 1908.
The Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) is planning to conduct drives in Bengaluru, based on the complaints it has received. Activists with ChildLine as well as members of the commission said children are telling passers-by that their parents have lost their jobs or faced salary cuts because of the pandemic. “They then ask for money saying it would be used to ensure that they continue their education in private schools,” said Nagasimha G. Rao, a child rights activist with Child Rights Trust (CRT).
Some children sell pens and stationery, and once they find a willing customer, they ask for extra money for their education. In some instances, the parents too are seen begging with their children by their side.
The matter came to light after a few citizens approached the CRT with reports of children begging for school fees in Jayanagar and Malleswaram.
“When we investigated some of the cases, we found that many children were not studying in the private school they claimed to be studying in. It’s possible that children are being made to stand on the streets for the vested interests of a few people,” Mr. Rao said.
Eight teams formed
KSCPCR Chairperson Fr. Antony Sebastian said that they have formed eight teams in the city that will have representatives from different departments and NGOs. The teams will visit traffic junctions across Bengaluru to identify children who need care and protection.
“The teams will try to engage with children. We need to address the root cause of this problem and see if we can provide rations or any other assistance to their families. We need to check if this is part of a larger conspiracy of trafficking in children,” he added.
Several NGOs and child rights activist have pointed out that the number of cases pertaining to child labour, child marriage and trafficking as well as other violations have seen a drastic increase during the last six months.
Radha R., a team member at ChildLine, said that rescuing children during the pandemic is a challenge. “We need to be careful. Children need to undergo a test and have to undergo quarantine before they can be transferred to a children’s home,” she said.
During a recent meeting with the Department of Women and Child Development, it was decided to step up the rescue operations along with the police, she added.