Ground Report: How an extended RTC bus service already brought back 6 dropout kids to school in Medchal's Jawaharnagar slums

On 13 June, the TSRTC extended one of its services, 211M running from CRPF to Secunderabad, to the slums. Earlier, it used to go via the Army Dental College in Secunderabad. Now, it has been rerouted via the slums in the morning and evening, according to the school hours. With this initiative, six school dropouts in the area have enrolled back in schools on the very first day.

By Nimisha S Pradeep  Published on  19 Jun 2022 6:01 AM GMT
Ground Report: How an extended RTC bus service already brought back 6 dropout kids to school in Medchals Jawaharnagar slums

Hyderabad: Dressed in a green shirt and blue pants and holding a grey rectangle bag on his shoulders, Rahul (name changed) is excited to go to school. As he waits eagerly at the entrance of the Giri Prasad Nagar slum in Jawaharnagar on the outskirts of Hyderabad in Medchal Malkajgiri district, a red and white vehicle comes sliding up and down the muddy road and stops in front of him. The bus has put an end to the long walks of over 25 children from the Jawaharnagar slums to their schools.

On 13 June, the TSRTC extended one of its services, 211M running from CRPF to Secunderabad, to the slums. Earlier, it used to go via the Army Dental College in Secunderabad. Now, it has been rerouted via the slums in the morning and evening, according to the school hours. With this initiative, six school dropouts in the area have enrolled back in schools on the very first day.

Access, a major stumbling block

Jawaharnagar is a pool of over 95 slums. Many of the slums here are far from the main road and people have to travel 1.5 to 2 kilometers to reach the main road and catch public transport. There are six government schools in Jawaharnagar, out of which four are primary schools and two are high schools. The nearest government primary school from Giri Prasad Nagar slum is Mandal Parishad Primary School (MPPS) Devender Nagar and MPPS Chennapur, both at a distance of 2.8 km. The nearest government high school is Zilla Parishad High School, (ZPHS) Jawaharnagar which is 4.2 km away. This is the state of one of the slums nearest to the main road in Jawaharnagar.

For another slum, Shanthi Nagar colony, which is one of the most remote and deprived slums in Jawaharnagar, the nearest government school is 3-4 km away.

The problem of access has always persisted in Jawaharnagar slums. Before February 2022, there was no pucca road in the Giri Prasad Nagar slum and there was no question of a bus running that route. People here used to walk to the Army Dental College which is around 1-2 km to catch a bus. It was difficult for small children to walk that distance, the locals say.




Going back to school

Many parents in the area enrolled their children in private schools as the government schools were far. But when Covid-19 hit, they could not afford the fees, and the private schools in the locality asked these students to leave over pending fees.

"I had sent my children to private school as the government schools here are very far. They were very small and I was not sure if they could walk till the main road and catch a bus and go to school," says Dorasani of Giri Prasad Nagar slum. She has four children and works as a domestic worker.

During Covid-19, the private school kicked her children out citing pending fees. They had quit school in 2021. When a bus service was started in the area this week, Dorasani decided to send her children back to school but this time to a government school.

Another parent, Yellamma of Gabbilalapet slum, who takes care of his grandson Varun, has also enrolled him in a government school after the start of the bus service. Varun's father is a drunkard and his mother and father are separated. Varun lives with his grandmother who works as a domestic worker and pays for Varun's education.

"He was forced to quit last year when he finished class 4. Now he has enrolled in class 5," says Yellamma happily.

Like Varun, five other kids who had dropped out last year also enrolled in government schools after the bus service in the slums started.

Parents go back to work

Some of the parents are glad that they are able to go to work, an indirect impact of the extended bus service. "Earlier, their father used to go and drop them at school and I used to bring them back. But now, we send them on the bus and I have even started going to work in a beauty parlour nearby," says Rajitha, mother of 11-year-old Chaithan and 13-year-old Sunaina from Gabbilalapet slum.

Earlier, some parents were not sending their children to school citing safety issues. They said they could not work peacefully while leaving their children to walk all the way to the main road.




The road not clear

Although the bus service has started, there are still some problems to address to bring out the full potential of the initiative. The Shanthi Nagar slum kids are still far away from schools.

The Shanthi Nagar slum, which is one of the remotest slums, is located opposite the Jawaharanagar dumping yard. Its nearest bus stop is around 2 kms away. Hima Bindu, a social worker in the area, says many times, children here get on garbage vehicles that go from the dumping yard and get down at the nearest bus stop. Especially during Covid-19, whenever there was a health emergency, people used to commute in garbage vehicles.

The Shanthi Nagar slum parents are requesting the bus service be extended to the Jawaharnagar dumping yard so that their kids do not have to walk 1.5 kms to reach the main road.

Hima Bindu, Main Fellow - Medchal District Group Fellowship (MDGF), supported by Child Rights and You (CRY) has played a big role in speaking to the TSRTC officials and arranging a bus service for the slum children. "Access has been a big issue here for a long time. Citing distance and financial reasons, many parents do not send their children to school and instead take them along to work. Child labourers and child marriages are common in this area. So, it is important that we find ways to encourage the parents into sending these kids back to school. Also, there are over 95 slums in Jawaharnagar and only two government high schools," says Hima.

Chennaiah Badugu, Senior Manager, CRY said, "There is a great need for children from these slums to rejoin school. With the bus facility in place, over 1200 children from four slums are likely to benefitted. We really thank TSRTC for this! CRY, through its MDGF initiative, has been working in these areas to improve school enrollment and grade transition. That said, a sanction of a new govt high school in Gabbilalapet is key, and would further accelerate re-enrollment of dropout children."

Free bus pass

Some of the students in the area still walk to the main road and catch a bus from there as it costs only Rs. 10 and the TSRTC's extended service cost them Rs. 20. "We need to get a pass for them, only then the bus service can serve its full purpose," says Hima. Girls get a free bus pass on government buses till 15 years and for boys, it is till 12 years.

Local corporator of Giri Prasad Nagar slum Lalitha Yadav said she is trying to tar the small stretch of road from the main road to the entrance of Giri Prasad Nagar slum to improve the efficiency of the bus service.

Mohammed Subhanuddin, a liaisoning officer of TSRTC who works at Hakimpet Depot says, "It's a proud moment as a bus is coming to our slum too. Earlier, children had to run with their heavy bags on their shoulders for around 1.5kms in the morning to catch a bus."

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