About 23 million children between 15-18 years of age in India are working, of whom 19 million have dropped out of school, according to a study conducted by a leading NGO.
The report by Child Rights and You (CRY) said about 9.2 million youngsters in the age group of 15-19 years are married and 2.4 million girls in the age group are mothers.
The report, which looks at the status of Indian children between the ages of 15 and 18 years, laid emphasis on the need to reach out to all stakeholders, including legislators, policy makers and decision makers, who deal with children of this age group.
The report also said that about 23 million children between 15-18 years of age in India are working under the protection of the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act that allows 15-18-year-olds to work in ‘non-hazardous’ occupations.
But 19 million out of the 23 million children drop out of education due to various factors, including inability to manage both work and education.
The total number of children in the age group of 15-18 years is 100 million, according to the data by the Census 2011.
On the high dropout rate, the report recommended an amendment in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education and said that schemes should not be treated as a substitute for extending free education up to higher secondary levels.
“There is also a need to make gender equality a primary goal of school system and provide free secondary education for families from below poverty line,” the report said.
The report also said that over 60 per cent of the kidnapping and abduction victims and 25 per cent of all female rape victims were from the age group of 15-18 years.
“The crime against children is a worrying trend which requires urgent attention of deep rooted issues of poverty and unemployment,” it said.
The report cited data from Census 2011, National Crime Record Bureau 2015-16 and National Family Health Survey 4 of 2016.
It aims to establish vulnerabilities of the children in age group of 15-18 years and in-depth data and policy analysis making use of available secondary data and published literature, further identifying gaps and thereby hope to influence policy and decision makers.
National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson Stuti Kacker, speaking at the launch of the report, said one of the ways to deal with the issues faced by the children of this age group is through community support.
“The society’s mentality should be that if a child suffers the whole community suffers, then only the situation could get better,” Kacker said on increasing violence against children.
She also said that there is a need to include the voices of children while formulating policies to know more about their concerns and the issues faced by them.
Priya Nanda, country lead of Equity and Social Change at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said there is a need to fortify and invest in schemes for children in the age group of 15-18 years.
“This age group of children is invisible and we need to break down that invisibility and use schools to create a motivated structure so that instances of dropping out can be reduced,” Nanda said.