A team of 17 sarpanches from Hyderabad arrived in Kochi on February 2, 2011, to visit various gram panchayats and schools. The three-day visit was organised by the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) in association with the MV Foundation. The sarpanches were accompanied by child development coordinators and Child Rights Protection Forum members. Two of the sarpanches were women.

The 30-member team were from Ranga Reddy, Nalganda, and Kurnool districts of Andhra Pradesh. Accompanied by an interpreter, the sarpanches observed practices followed by various gram panchayats and schools in the State, with special focus on child welfare and the Right to Compulsory Education.

The introductory session was conducted by CPPR Chairman D Dhanuraj and Professor K C Abraham, at the organisation’s Elamkulam office. The study team was introduced to the organisation’s areas of research and initiatives, which was followed by a detailed presentation on the history of the State’s decentralization of power and education.

Special interaction sessions were organised for the sarpanches at Udamperoor and Poothrikka Gram Panchayats, where they interacted with the panchayat members, and visited government schools in those areas. The participants also interacted with the Kochi Mayor and Deputy Mayor, officials from the State Education Department, as well as school students. A session with the Kudumbasree members of Maradu Municipality was educative, as the sarpanches were able to study the functioning of this self-help group (SHG). The team also visited Fort Kochi, which is famous for Kochi’s cultural heritage, and enjoyed a boat ride on Marine Drive.

This field study was a part of Secunderabad-based M V Foundation’s work on the elimination of child labour through universalisation of education. The Foundation mobilises rural and urban communities for protection of child rights.