New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) A project to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of child labour by tobacco growers has had a positive fallout — a significant improvement in school attendance.

The project, “Prevention of Child labour and Rural Development in Tobacco Growing Villages of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka”, is focused on development of school infrastructure, income-generation activities and awareness-building.

The programme, executed by the voluntary organisation ASSIST, has resulted in some 8,000 children from 34 communities in 30 villages attending school regularly, thus moving out of the farm workforce, according to IPM India, the wholesale trading arm of Philip Morris International, which supports the project.

The push to spread awareness, through rallies and cultural events involving over 7,000 children, have built a connect with more than 60,000 villagers, an IPM India statement said, adding that it has “reached out to over 3,400 children through child-to-child workshops”.

IPM India has developed a programme called Good Agricultural Practices through which it seeks to improve the lives of those who rely on farm work — and a big part of that is eliminating child labor on tobacco farms, said R. Venkatesh, Director, Corporate Affairs, IPM India.

India has a large number of economically-active children, estimated at 4.35 million (five to 14 years) by the Census of India in 2011.

Worldwide, 60 per cent of all child labour in the age group five to 17 years work in agriculture, including farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry, and livestock. The majority of child labour are unpaid family members.

One component of providing access to education is the School Infrastructure Development programme which focuses on improving school facilities, including sanitation, potable water, sports facilities and classroom equipment.

An After School Programme seeks to prevent children from dropping out of school by providing them meals and engaging them in post-school activities, particularly during peak agriculture season, when the need for working hands is higher.

“Our programme has been implemented in more than 50 schools in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Over the years, we have seen a significant change in the school-going patterns of children.

“Students, supported by parents, prefer to go to schools which now have good facilities and infrastructure. We are pleased at the way in which local communities have joined hands with us in spreading awareness against child labour and encouraging students to attend schools,” Venkatesh remarked.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.