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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