On The Ground

No Child Left Behind: A Retrospective Series on the Progress Made and what’s To Come

In this four-part series, we’ll take a look back at the No Child Left Behind program, the progress that’s been made, and also explore what’s on the horizon.

Part 2: The Project Begins to Take Shape

In a project such as No Child Left Behind, ensuring its long-term success is a complicated proposition. While organisations outside the region may sometimes be tempted to take control of the various aspects of the project from abroad, the reality is that this type of remote management has serious limitations. In order for a project like this to be successful, it must be run by a competent team of professionals on the ground who have a deep knowledge of the community they’re serving as well as an understanding of the type of bureaucracy and general challenges they will be facing.

For the No Child Left Behind program, it was the local team from Manjari based in Budhpura who made the difference. Their team, which included a number of individuals from Budhpura, was more prepared to tackle the challenges of child labor due to their insight into the area and the unique issues facing the community. But it wasn’t always easy – a lot of training was needed initially to make sure all of the staff members were up to speed on the work.

The Manjari team after a multi stakeholder meeting
The Manjari team after a multi stakeholder meeting
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The Beginning

No Child Left Behind: A Retrospective Series on the Progress Made and What’s To Come

In this four-part series, we’ll take a look back at the No Child Left Behind program, the progress that’s been made, and also explore what’s on the horizon.

Part 1: A Beginning Filled with Hope and Uncertainty

To begin a project like No Child Left Behind was a daunting proposition. It meant walking into Budhpura, a village rife with challenges and steeped in tradition, with the goal of creating significant change. For the team involved in getting the project off the ground, there was no shortage of emotion – from hope to fear and everything in between.

Budhpura. A semi rural Indian village highly vulnerable to Child Labour.
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Two steps forward, one step backward

Last week Steven and I visited the No Child Left Behind project in Budhpura with the intention of boosting interaction between Manjari and the business community.

We had mapped more clearly the yards where our suppliers are sourcing the cobbles from and hope to improve the working conditions at these yards over time.

While I was there I had a shocking reality check: I saw three teenagers working on cobbles in a yard adjacent to the main road…out in the open. The yard had a sign in front of it declaring it as a Child Labour Free Zone. It was obviously not! I went closer and when they noticed me the boys ran away. So I talked to the adults asking why the children were there. They replied that schools were closed because of holidays and kids were “simply” surpassing time. They claimed that they were not working regularly…I explained that any form of labour at their age is unacceptable and that children should be playing, not working, when schools are closed.

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Mapping the Supply Chains. The Complexity of Foreign Supply Chains

I’ve travelled to India on numerous occasions over the last 10 years and it’s fair to say that on each visit, I gain further insight into the supply chain. Since leaving the ETI and joining the CLFZ (Child Labour Free Zones) project London Stone’s visits to India have been solely focussed on working with the local community to make child labour a thing of the past in Budhpura.

Whilst being extremely rewarding the project has also been a huge challenge for everyone involved.  Now 3 years in we are starting to see real, on the ground progress, none more so than after a recent visit which has left me feeling inspired and given me a deeper understanding of the community, its social structures, the problems it faces and of course, the solutions.

How did I get this deeper understanding?  By walking.  Walking the supply continuously until all the questions in my mind were answered.  Such a valuable exercise, I had spent time walking the supply chain on my previous visit but this time, I delved a lot deeper. It was while walking and mentally mapping out the supply chain that I realised of the tiers within a tier. Let me explain!

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Rajender, a teacher’s story

Rajender is a school teacher at the primary school in one of the hamlets surrounding Budhpura. Almost 30 children in class are paying great attention to what he writes on the school board. “So much has happened here over the past few years”, he says, “around four years ago almost no child came to school”. The most important reasons? Parent’s lack of awareness about the importance of education and the lack of good quality schools.

Local ngo Manjari went into the hamlets to reach out to parents and to improve the access to education and its quality. With success: nowadays 90% of children from this hamlet goes to school and the schools have improved facilities. “A good education means a chance of getting a better job and consequently a better future for these children”, says Rajender, “that’s well worth committing myself to”.

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