PUNE- The Pashan Shalas, the schools for children of stone quarry workers established by the NGO Santulan, completed 10 years on Monday. However,
the children’s demands, including measures to tackle malnutrition, free access to primary health care centres near stone quarries and scholarships for migrant children, remain unfulfilled a decade later.
According to Santulan’s annual report for 2009, 2,621 children from six districts were admitted into the primary and secondary sections of the Pashan Shalas this year. On October 5 each year, Santulan conducts a Santulan Pashan Shala Hakka Parishad’ to review the year gone by. This year’s Parishad was held at the Ambedkar Bhavan in the city on Monday.
B M Rege, founder of Santulan and the driving force behind the Pashan Shalas set up across the state, said, “According to the Mines and Minerals Act, 1952, children below 18 years of age cannot work at stone quarries. However, the fact is, minors are employed at such sites, and are deprived of education, health and child rights.”
Santulan has been fighting for the rights of these children since the Pashan Shalas were conceived 10 years ago. The children have been releasing a memorandum of their demands ever since, but the demands have remained unattended so far, Santulan said.
This year, too, a memorandum of the demands of the children, which includes treatment on par with students in state-aided primary schools was handed over to the state government recently.
“Coming from the lowest economic strata, they have demanded school uniforms, books and learning aids. Vocational training centres and admission for children of stone-quarry mishap victims in state orphanages are some of the other demands,” Rege informed.
Ten years ago, 84 students were admitted to three Pashan Shalas in Pune, which has now grown to a network of 82 schools with 15,708 children. Schools now exist in Pune, Ahmednagar, Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli and Nashik districts.