“This Chart gives me HOPE! I always feel I am not capable of doing much, but this session gives me confidence. I never knew there are so many opportunities and courses available”. Somesh[1] resonates the sentiments of the 12 boys of Class X, on the session on Career Guidance by their Counsellor, who was trained by India Literacy Project (ILP). These young boys live in the Government Children’s Home for Boys, Huballi, and will be sitting for their SSLC examination soon.

Somesh is one of the 4500+ children who reside in government Child Care Institutions (CCIs). These children come from difficult circumstances; being victims of forced labour, trafficked for employment or other purposes, forced into child marriage (girls especially), broken homes, domestic violence or abusive environments. Most of these children belong to scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, backward communities, migrant families or families of day wage labourers. They are in need of care and protection, and the State Juvenile Justice system caters them.

While children residing in CCIs attend mainstream government schools, they have very minimal exposure to the outside world. The CCIs are ill equipped to deal with the changing needs of the day, especially in rural and remote regions. The personnel of the CCIs, though well meaning, are not trained, informed or updated on the academic and vocational aspect, especially newer opportunities, and are therefore not the most suited to guide children on career opportunities.

This, however, is now changing! For perhaps the first time in the country, around 200 frontline functionaries of the CCIs have been capacitated as Master trainers or Facilitators on Career Guidance and Counselling, through a joint initiative of the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Karnataka (DWCD) and ILP.  This is also a first for ILP as we primarily work with children in schools, who by and large have homes and parents/families that care for them. Hence, reaching out to the most vulnerable children of the state makes this experience and investment all the more rewarding!

Officers and Counsellors of the 30 District Child Protection Units (DCPUs), Superintendents of 79 Children’s Homes across the State attended a one day intensive, participatory and activity oriented training, conducted in 4 batches from December 2019 to January 2020. In the words of Mrs. Nagarathnamma, one of the senior officers of the Child Protection Unit, Bengaluru Urban, “The hands on training and the practical information given is equipping us with capabilities to reach out to our youngsters. This will add weight to the Individual Care Plan[2] we prepare for each child as we now have definitive direction to provide them.”

The most appealing aspect of the Training, that participants said they enjoyed immensely, was the Holland Test. Taking this psychometric test themselves to understand their individual personality type and their aptitude for a profession was an eye opener for them. Interestingly, over 80% of them acknowledged that the Test did reflect their personality and was 90% accurate!

As part of the training, Career Guidance kits were made available to all the 79 Institutions and 30 DCPUs across the State. The kits comprise of the Career Chart and accompanying Career Manuals, in English and regional languages, providing elaborate information for children, teachers and care providers alike.

The detailed Career Chart throws open a vista of academic, vocational and industry related training courses available, with all other additional information required for a student to pursue the opted path. For the 190+ participants this exposure to such detailed information and knowledge was yet another first, and the participants reflected that it was an immense value addition, both personally and professionally.

The Training ended with each District team preparing a follow up action plan to implement the Career Guidance to benefit all children under the Juvenile Justice system. This includes Taluk and District wise resource mapping of courses, vocational training, institutions and colleges and make it available on the website of the DWCD.

ILP, on request of the DWCD, will facilitate the follow-up with the CCIs. Quoting Ms. Pallavi Akkurati, IAS, Director, Integrated Child Protection Scheme, DWCD, “This is a wonderful initiative of ILP and we want every child in our state to benefit by it.”

[1] Name changed for confidentiality.

[2] Individual Care Plan is a mandatory requirement under the Juvenile Justice Act, prepared for a comprehensive rehabilitation of children in State care, and covers the medical, emotional, social, legal, educational and vocational rehabilitation.