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What happens when a country of the size of India has over 3 million children living on the streets? Or has over 150 million children working as bonded labourers? Or one out of every six girl child does not live to see her 15th birthday? What happens when despite having a national policy for compulsory primary education, only 50% of children have access to education?

The statement "Children are the future of the nation" stops making sense, then! In fact, it sounds like an ominous prophecy. For how can we explain that even after 60 years of independence, half of India's children are illiterate? Despite identifying primary education as a key thrust area and possessing one of the largest networks of schools in the world?

Clearly, we have a lot to answer for. And as concerned citizens do something about it; something meaningful, something concrete, something urgently. No more do we have the luxury of blaming the system or postponing our actions. The time to take collective as well as individual responsibility to remedy the present situation is here. Right now! And also we need many more Smiles to cater to the vast (increasing) number of children in our country's population.


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Kindly click here to know about Child Rights preambles & articles, Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as its relevance in India.

Literacy Updates in India

The litercay ratio of India is 65.38% with male literacy at 75.85% and female literacy at 54.16%
Of the 193 million Children in the age group 6 to 14 years, 8.1 million children are out of school as of Sept 2004 as per Government statistics.
Net primary enrolment ratio in 2001/02 : 83 7%
Children reaching grade 5 in 2000/01 : 59 8 %

Ministry of Finance / Press Information Bureau Data

Number of Primary Schools in India : 0.664 million (2001-02)
Number Upper Primary Schools in India : 0.219 million
Population in the age group of 6-14 years : 193 Million
Secondary and Senior Secondary Schools : 0.133 million; Enrollment : 30.5 million
Findings from the Survey – ‘Social infrastructure like education is as important as physical infrastructure, not only for sustaining high growth but also for enhancing welfare. The root of poverty often lies in illiteracy.’


Census of India 1991

State with highest literacy rate : Kerala (89.8)
State with lowest literacy rate : Bihar (38.5)
District with highest literacy rate : Kottayam, Kerala (95.7)
District with lowest literacy rate : Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh (19.0)

Definition of a Child in India

As per the child rights charter, a universal definition of "child" includes all persons under the age of 18.

40% of India's population is below the age of 18 years which at 400 million is the world's largest child population.

Facts on Education

Less than half of India's children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.

A little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight.

At least 35 million children aged 6 - 14 years do not attend school.

53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.

In India, only 53% of habitation has a primary school.

In India, only 20% of habitation has a secondary school.

On an average an upper primary school is 3 km away in 22% of areas under habitations.

In nearly 60% of schools, there are less than two teachers to teach Classes I to V.

On an average, there are less than three teachers per primary school. They have to manage classes from I to V every day.

High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.

Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.

1 in 40, primary school in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.

In Andhra Pradesh (South India), 52 upper primary schools were operating without a building in 2002, while in 1993, there were none.

In Maharashtra (West India), there were 10 schools operating without a building in 1993, this has climbed to 33 in 2002.

More than 50 per cent of girls fail to enroll in school; those that do are likely to drop out by the age of 12.

50% of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to school

Source: 7th All India Education Survey, 2002

Statistics on Child Labour

17 million children in India work as per official estimates.

A study found that children were sent to work by compulsion and not by choice, mostly by parents, but with recruiter playing a crucial role in influencing decision.

When working outside the family, children put in an average of 21 hours of labour per week.

19% of children employed work as domestic help.

90% working children are in rural India.

85% of working children are in the unorganized sectors.

About 80% of child labour is engaged in agricultural work.

Millions of children work to help their families because the adults do not have appropriate employment and income thus forfeiting schooling and opportunities to play and rest.

Children also work because there is demand for cheap labour. High incidence of child labour is a result of high incidence of adult unemployment.

Large numbers of children work simply because there is no alternative - since, they do not have access to good quality schools.

Poor and bonded families often "sell" their children to contractors who promise lucrative jobs in the cities and the children end up being employed in brothels, hotels and domestic work. Many run away and find a life on the streets.

There are approximately 2 million child commercial sex workers between the age of 5 and 15 years and about 3.3 million between 15 and 18 years.

They form 40% of the total population of commercial sex workers in India.

80% of these are found in the 5 metros.

71% of them are illiterate.

500,000 children are forced into this trade every year.

Data on Health

70 in every 1000 children born in India do not see their first birthday. The total number of such children works out to 2 million.

58% of India's children below the age of 2 years are not fully vaccinated. And 24% of these children do not receive any form of vaccination.

95 in every 1000 children born in India do not see their fifth birthday.

Only 38% of India's children below the age of 2 years are immunized.

74% of India's children below the age of 3 months are anaemic.

Over 60% of children in India are anaemic.

Acute respiratory infections are leading causes of child mortality (30%) followed by diarrhoea (20%) in India.

One in every 100 children in India between age group of 0-14 years suffers from acute respiratory infection.

Almost one in every five children in India below the age of 14 suffers from diarrhoea.

58% of India's children below the age of 2 years are not fully vaccinated. And 24% of these children do not receive any form of vaccination.

Only 38% of India's children below the age of 2 years are immunized.

Almost one in every five children in India below the age of 14 suffers from diarrhoea, an easily preventable disease.

Special Statistics on Girl Child

1 out of every 6 girls does not live to see her 15th birthday.

Of the 12 million girls born in India, 1 million do not see their first birthday.

Of the 12 million girls born in India, 3 million do not see their fifteenth birthday, and a million of them are unable to survive even their first birthday.

One-third of these deaths take place at birth.

Every sixth girl child's death is due to gender discrimination.

Females are victimised far more than males during childhood.

3 lakh more girls than boys die every year

Female mortality exceeds male mortality in 224 out of 402 districts in India.

Death rate among girls below the age of 4 years is higher than that of boys. Even if she escapes infanticide or foeticide, a girl child is less likely to receive immunisation, nutrition or medical treatment compared to a male child.

Updates on Nutrition

More than 50% of India's children are malnourished.

While one in every five adolescent boys is malnourished, one in every two girls in India is undernourished.

23% of India's children are underweight at birth.

   Our Children, the children in India, for whom education is a privilege. For a photo gallery of a few of    our children learning to have    a Smile on their faces, please click here

[Note: Kindly verify the data and statistics with relevant sources before using it. Smile does not take responsibility of its misinterpretation and misuse, if any]

Education for Poor Children – is the focus of Smile Foundation Programmes across India, South Asia. Our various welfare projects spread across different Indian states provide Literacy and Basic Education for Poor Children, besides health care support. Ensuring educational support for needy Children remains the prime agenda of Smile Foundation programs also by supporting genuine small NGOs, educational trust, child welfare initiatives, various child education foundations and grassroots non government organisations.

The Indian states covered by Smile children education initiatives include Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi NCR, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Manipur, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Jharkhand.

  . Photo Gallery