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Education & Child Labor: The Promise of a Better Future

Nearly half of India

Nearly half of India's population - a staggering 424 million - is illiterate. The problem is especially acute among females, two-thirds of whom are illiterate as compared to one-third of males. In Medak District, the numbers are even more dismal where 55% of males are illiterate and 81% of females. Among the poor, the estimated figures on illiteracy rise further still to 77% among males and 90% among females.

The high prevalence of child labor in India further compounds the problem of illiteracy. Census data report that 75 million children, ages 6-14, do not attend school-up to 44 million of whom are child laborers. In the rural context, the girl child typically remains at home to care for younger children, tend to household chores, and to work in the fields. Tragically, the male child is often "sold" into bonded labor to alleviate the debt of poor families. In fact, the incidence of child bonded labor is particularly high in Medak District.

The child labor initiative will be modeled after the pioneering work of SKS Board member, Shantha Sinha, with the M. Venkatarangaiya Foundation which frees child laborers and enrolls them in schools designed to meet the educational needs of child laborers. In addition, SKS intends to establish a pre-primary education program to give poor rural children a "head start" towards a bright academic career. Seed money for a pre-primary school has been donated by Chandra Shekar and Vijaya Laxmi Thunga, on behalf of an association of non-resident Indians in the United States, and the building is under construction

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