Monday, 8 July 2013

Fighters : The wind against the odds

 Part Two : We want to touch the sky

If we go by the dictionary meaning dropping out is described as leaving the school without completing the High school diploma or acquiring any such equivalent certificate or credentials.  Amongst many other reasons of students dropping out of school poor socio-economic background serves as the major contributing factor in this Ratio. In 2010 survey, it revealed that the dropout rate was about 28% for both girls and boys combined at primary level and the rate was about 43% at secondary level. But the good thing is that this rate is declining now after the government’s intervention and implementation of RTE (Right to Education) act. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, in a recent press statement said, "The number of out of school children in the age group of 6 to 14 has come down to 3 million in 2012. It was 8 million in 2009." It also added that "Net enrolment ratio at the primary level has been achieved at 99.8%. It has also led to gender parity index at primary level of one. The scheme supports about 200 million children in about 1.4 million schools in the country with special focus on disadvantaged sections such as SC/ST and Minorities, particularly girls".

But the government is not alone. There are few motivated people out here to eradicate this problem too. In 1981 Institute of Social Worker (ISW) took a pledge to remove this social plague from its roots. They started with a small group of thirty school drop-out students. At that time may be their infrastructure was small but they had high hopes and the confidence which was required to accomplish such a difficult task. Their effort and confidence turned into hopes for several under-privileged students, those who couldn’t complete their studies for some reason or so. In north 24-PGS, a small district of West Bengal, ISW started with a mission
under a Mango tree with high hopes. But at the beginning it wasn’t a cake walk for them as they had to face several atrocities in various forms. From local people to civic body everyone tried their level best to stop these brave hearts from accomplishing their mission. They tried every possible way even went on to the extent of misguiding people by spreading rumors that the motive behind this educational system is to baptize the students to adapt Christianity.  But the members of ISW were determined to go on with what they started. They dauntlessly fought against these odds. Even went door to door to approach these peoples and clear their misconception against their organization. After a great amount of zeal and hard work these group of people were able to mold the public opinion in their favor. In a period of few years they introduced a school named Sishu Vikash Bharathi in a view to bestow primary education to children. After some time they even extended their purview and stretched from primary education to secondary education by introducing eighth standard in their school. As the good name and the popularity increased so did the strength of students increased to a staggering 350 within a short span of time

But keeping in mind the current political scenario where every rule is twisted and molded according to their interests. According to a policy an age has been fixed by the state government for every class in West Bengal. And a student can be enrolled in any class according to their age irrespective of their capabilities and previous class experience. As a result parents who are unable to see the consequences, enrolling their kids in the classes according to their age in government schools. A student is being enrolled in standard three without spending required time in standard one or two.  A close look at the picture will show that it is very difficult for a child coming from such a poor economic background to start schooling from the correct age. As an obvious result the student can’t follow the class lectures properly.  It serves as a major contributing factor to the increasing percentage of school dropouts. A survey done by Alliance for Excellent education shows that approximately 1.2 million students drop out of school because of inability to understand their lessons. Another of such man made policies say that until & unless a school has been affiliated by the government they don’t have authorities to conduct such classes. As these groups of civic authority people had aces of power in their hand they tried every possible measure to halt this education system started by ISW.

ISW have not limited their education to all vision to the school they also have a group of teachers coaching classes for students after the school timings. These classes are open for all. And all of this in a very nominal charge of less than 1 USD per month. The reason behind the execution of such classes was to support those students who left schools because of government policies which are mentioned earlier. But ISW has never compromised with their quality of education at any cost.  According to the local people like Reshma Bibi or Subrata Byne, the students of ISW are far better knowledgeable than their counterparts in any government school. But as situations have worsened a lot and things have never went in their favor of them due to which ISW is running out of fund to continue with this imperial cause. But the situation has worsened enough because of lack of fund. Thirty years they have been in this mission tirelessly without any government help. But now they are at the crossroad of a dilemma that whether they should go for government affiliation and save the school or just simply shut it down. Because they fear if it goes for affiliation, they may compromise the quality of education. A true confusion for the life and soul.

Text by Roshni Ghosh

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Unauthorized use or reproduction for any reason is prohibited

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Fighters : The wind against the odds

Part One : The Feminine Power

A focus on girls’ education in India was put in place since the 1986 National Policy on Education and the 1992 Program of Action, followed by the SSA program launched in 2001, National Curriculum Framework in 2005 and the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education in 2010. These policies were complemented by other schemes such as National Program for the Education of Girls at the Elementary Level, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme, both ensuring inclusion and quality education for girls. The Mahila Samakhya program was launched in 10 states targeting marginalized sections of rural women. Access to education was also facilitated by separate schools for girls, availability of open learning resources, residential schooling, coaching facilities; scholarships, textbooks, uniforms and transport including bicycles. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (known as RTE) Act, 2010, charted a new road map for gender equality in education in India.
Despite all these efforts, surprisingly, a large number of girls still remain outside the education system. According to UNICEF India, out of 81% girls joining school at the primary level, around 50% drop out at the secondary level. A 2010 report by the National Council for Teacher Education estimated that an additional 1.2 million teachers were needed to fulfill the RTE Act requirements, and last year the RTE Forum, a civil society collective of around 10,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), found that only 5% of government schools complied with all the basic standards for infrastructure set by the act. Some 40% of primaries had more than 30 students per classroom, and 60% didn't have electricity. The RTE Forum also reported official figures showing that 21% of teachers weren't professionally trained. 
But these are all infrastructural and administrative problems. If we try to find out, there are plenty of socioeconomic problems as well and sometimes these are the biggest problems to send a girl to school and stand her in life. Main reason is poverty. Many talented children have been forcefully left school because their parents are unable to provide the money for their education. Girls are most common soft target in this regard. Still in India girls are considered as marriage materials and they must be married after a certain age. Even in some regions girls are unwanted during birth. It leads female foeticide. After sixty years of independence this perception has been changed very little. Sometimes parents force them to dropout from school and put them in jobs to increase the number of earning members of the family. Girls are very common target of human trafficking. It hampers their education as well. 
But some of them fight against these odds valiantly and keep faith on their will to reach their ultimate goal. From morning to night sometime they fight against the society, sometime against their parents and even sometime against their own motivation. 

12 years old priya at her home. Priya's father does not have any permanent job.But still her parents are confident to support her education at any cost.

Priya is ready for school

Girls are playing during annual sports day

Mid-Day-Meal is being distributed

Madhumita is having her lunch with her friends

We need a mass movement to change this scenario. First of all we need to provide enough financial support to the family. Some NGOs are doing this tirelessly. But these are not enough. In past Government started an initiative to provide lunch at break as “Mid-Day-Meal” to attract students to the school. Parents are sending their kids to school after this initiative, but not in large numbers. Education department has also directed to draw different diagrams in pictorial forms inside the classrooms to increase the interest about education. Different activities are often organized at school level like painting, sports, and cultural programs to increase the engagement with the students and their parents. We need to implement strong legislation outlawing child labor, gender based violence, and harassment of girls as well. But above all we need to change our perceptions and educate people around us about the importance of girls’ education that all the girls can go to sleep every night with their dreams intact with a hope for a better and joyful tomorrow.

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Unauthorized use or reproduction for any reason is prohibited