Dalit kids made to eat last, Muslims insulted in schools: Report

Children from Dalit, tribal and Muslim communities are being blatantly discriminated against in schools in rural areas in several states of the country, says a shocking report released by an international rights group on Tuesday.

The discrimination, the Human Rights Watch report titled ‘They Say We’re Dirty’ says, includes “teachers asking Dalit children to sit separately, making insulting remarks about Muslims and tribal students and village authorities not responding when girls are kept from the classroom”.

The report also says “teachers and other students often address these children using derogatory terms for their caste, community, tribe, or religion”.

“In some schools, children from vulnerable communities are not ever considered for leadership roles such as class monitor because of their caste or community. Many are expected to perform unpleasant jobs such as cleaning toilets. Schools in marginalised neighborhoods often have the poorest infrastructure and least well-trained teachers; many have fewer teachers than required,” the report said.

The report was prepared with interviews with more than 160 people, including 85 children, to examine obstacles to implementation of the Right to Education Act, said Human Rights Watch.

Here are some of the instances of bias the children face on the basis of caste and religion, as cited in the report:

1. This is what a student from the Ghasiya tribal community studying at a school in Sonbhadra district in UP was quoted as saying: “The teacher tells us to sit on the other side. If we sit with others, she scolds us and asks us to sit separately … The teacher doesn’t sit with us because she says we ‘are dirty.’ The other children also call us dirty everyday so sometimes we get angry and hit them.”

2. The principal of the same school in Sonbhadra said this about the tribal children: “These Ghasiya children come to school late, come when they want to come, no matter how much we tell them to come on time. Their main aim is to come and eat, not to study. Just see how dirty they are.”

3. A 14-year-old boy, working at a brick kiln, recounted: “The teacher always made us sit in a corner of the room, and would throw keys at us [when she was angry]. We only got food if anything was left after other children were served… [G]radually [we] stopped going to school.”

4. A dalit girl from Bihar said this: “Other children don’t let us sit with them. Some of the girls say, ‘Yuck, you people are Dom [street sweepers] – a dirty caste….’ The teachers never say anything even when we complain.”

5. A 12-year-old boy, from the Muslim community in Delhi, said this: “The teachers don’t let us participate in any sports. Class monitors are always chosen from among Hindu boys and they always complain about us Muslim boys.”

6. Sharda, a Dalit girl, said she was withdrawn from school by her parents because they were worried about her safety. She was married at age 14 against her will. Before her wedding, when she went to school despite her parents’ refusal, she found that her name was no longer in the school register. While some villagers cautioned her father against marrying her at such a young age, no local authorities or members of the gram panchayat intervened.

India Today rt/1/357043.html

Posted on: April 22, 2014


Low cost private schools may solve India’s problem

Low cost private schools may provide education to all children, educationist James Tooley said Thursday, adding that attention is not being given to such schools.

Recounting his experience in Hyderabad, Tooley, a professor of education policy at the Newcastle University in Britain, who has served as a consultant for the World Bank, said he was struck by the ubiquity of private schools in a slum area.

“The parents in the slum did not want to send their children to government schools, but they sent them to a low cost private schools,” he said.

“This is not just the case in India, it is so in the entire developing world,” Tooley said participating in a conference on school education organised by industrial body CII.

Toby Linden, lead education specialist at the World Bank, stressed that Indian government has not been trying to find new ways to use finance education.

“The same pattern has been repeated over years, they are not thinking of creative ways to use finance for the education sector,” he said.

A recent report by NGO Pratham released earlier this year showed the enrolment level in schools has made significant strides with 97 percent of children now in schools, compared with 93 percent in 2005.

However, the quality of learning as measured by reading, writing, and arithmetic, has not shown much improvement as per the report.

The study also noted that there has been a steady increase in private school enrolment from 18.7 percent in 2006 to 29 percent in 2013.

Business Standard roblem-114031300824_1.html

Posted on: March 14, 2014


Dalit Literacy Rate Up by 9 pc in Pondy

There has been a substantial increase in the literacy rate among the Scheduled Caste people with the literacy rate going up to 77.9 per cent in 2011 from 69.1 per cent in 2001. The rural literacy has seen a jump from 64.3 per cent to 73.9 per cent while the urban literacy has increased from 75 per cent to 83 per cent, according to a presentation given by deputy director of census operations, Puducherry, J Jayapragasam, at a workshop here on Wednesday.

The male literacy rate has gone up from 78.4 per cent to 85.2 percent, while the female literacy rate has increased from 60.1 per cent to 71.1 per cent

The work participating rate of SC has gone down from 40.2 per cent in 2001 to 38 per cent in 2011. More significantly, in rural areas, the rate has decreased from 44.4 per cent to 39.7 per cent. But in urban areas, it has gone up from 34.9 per cent to 35.9 per cent. While 66 per cent are male workers, 44 per cent are female workers.

A total of 18.98 per cent of the SC population in Puducherry town lives in slums, while 56 per cent of the population lives in slums in Yanam, 9.71 per cent in Mahe and 30.88 per cent in Karaikal.

While cultivators in the general population has declined from 3.18 per cent to 2.71 per cent in the last decade, among the SC population, it has marginally increased from 1.18 per cent to 1.62 per cent.

The literacy rate in slums is 82.37 per cent in Puducherry, 97.18 per cent in Mahe and 83.78 per cent in Karaikal. The agricultural labourers have declined from 55.36 per cent to 39.11 per cent. The percentage of SC population employed in household industry as compared to other industries has increased from 0.83 per cent to 1.03 per cent. In other industries also it increased from 42.63 per cent to 58.24 per cent. 13/12/20/article1955577.ece

Posted on: December 23, 2013


SC/STs ahead of rest in child sex ratio

Latest census data on scheduled castes and tribes shows that the trend of STs having the best sex ratios, and SCs too doing better than the non-SC/ST population continues to hold good. The trend suggests that ‘backwardness’ may actually work in favour of gender justice, presumably by denying access to sex determination techniques.

Detailed data on SCs and STs from the 2011 census, released on Monday, showed that the child sex ratio (CSR) among tribals in India was 957, well ahead of the ratio of 933 among Dalits and 910 in the population excluding these two categories.

The pattern held good for most of the major states, though there were a few exceptions and the degree of variation between the different groups also varied across states.

The CSR, which measures the number of girls aged 0-6 years for every 1,000 boys of the same age, is a better indicator than the overall sex ratio for several reasons. Primary among these is the fact that the overall sex ratio is distorted by the predominantly male inter-state migration which boosts the sex ratio in states from which there is a net out migration and reduces it in states which receive a lot of migrants. Also, since women typically live longer than men, this too can make the overall sex ratio present an unduly rosy picture.

Of the five states with the worst CSR – Haryana, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi and Gujarat – Haryana, Punjab and Delhi have no ST population. In these states, therefore, we could only compare the SC and non-SC populations and the pattern is clear. In each of them, the CSR among Dalits was significantly better than among the non-SC/ST population.

In Jammu & Kashmir and Gujarat, the pattern of STs doing best on this parameter followed by SCs and then the non-SC/ST population held up. In Gujarat, the CSR for the ST population was nearly 80 points higher than for the ‘general’ population, and in J&K the gap was close to 60.

The exceptions to the trend are the three southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and Assam in the northeast. In each of these states, the CSR for STs was lower than that for SCs or for the non-SC/ST population. However, in all of them, all the ratios were among the best in the country.

What leads us to suggest that this pattern might have something to do with ‘backwardness’ denying access to sex determination? That’s because other CSR measures too point in the same direction. Thus, the urban CSR is worse than the rural one in most states. Similarly, states generally regarded as backward, such as Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, do better than ‘developed’ ones such as Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat.

There is, to be fair, also a regional pattern with the south and the east clearly outperforming the north and the west. So it appears that cultural factors also have an important role to play.

Times of India

Posted on: November 1, 2013


Manual scavengers’ children listed under disadvantaged group

The government has decided to include children of manual scavenger under the disadvantage group for facilitating their education in private unaided schools.

“The management of private unaided schools will admit such children within 15 per cent of seats earmarked for children belonging to the disadvantaged group. They will also prepare plan for such children with regard to their coverage in special training,” said School and Mass Education Department in a notification.

According to interim status report on survey of manual scavengers, so far, 1,243 have reported as manual scavenger engaged in cleaning of sanitary latrines in 79 urban local bodies of the State.

About 24 ULBs out of total 103 ULBs are yet to report on presence of manual scavengers in their jurisdiction.

The persons engaged in cleaning operation at railway tracks, septic tanks, and open drains will be treated as manual scavengers.


The procedure of admission of children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups to the extent of 25 per cent of strength of Class I of private unaided schools in accordance with the provisions under Section 12 (1) (C ) of Right To Education Act has been communicated to management of private schools.

The Hindu ed-under-disadvantaged-group/article5195208.ece

Posted on: October 4, 2013


For first time in 100 years, Dalit Student Tops KGMU

For a medical university that has been in news time and again for alleged discrimination against Dalit students, King George Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow, is all set to award its most prestigious awards to a student belonging to Schedule Caste — for the first time in over 100 years of its history.

Vandana, an MBBS student of SC category of 2008 batch, has topped the university and bagged a total of 17 medals, including the most prestigious Hewett Gold Medal and Chancellor’s Gold Medal, apart from two other gold medals for academic excellence.

The medals would be bestowed upon Vandana in the ninth convocation ceremony of the university Sunday.

The Hewett Gold medal is awarded by the varsity for obtaining highest marks in Final Professional MBBS Part II examination whereas Chancellor’s medal is given for obtaining highest aggregate marks in MBBS.

Confirming that Vandana is the first student from SC category to get the top two gold medals, KGMU Vice-Chancellor Prof DK Gupta said: “In the last 100 years, we saw no student from SC category get an award (in academics)...I am very happy that this student (Vandana) bagged both the gold medals this year.”

Vandana maintained that her achievement is more of an individual success, which she owes to her family rather than a story of community struggle and victory.

“I do not really relate to ‘Dalit struggle’ because I have had the good fortune of getting excellent education and my parents and siblings have been very supportive,” Vandana, youngest of the three children of Harish Chandra Ram, a PWD junior engineer, told The Sunday Express.

Even in the past, Vandana has proved herself as a meritorious student with an outstanding 91 per cent marks in 10th and 89.64 per cent in 12th.

After completing schooling from Lucknow Public School, Vandana got 37th rank in SC category in medical entrance examination which secured her a seat at KGMU.

Ruling out any discrimination by KGMU faculty members, Vandana said her struggles are similar to any other student and she has faced no biases against her in university.

The V-C also made Vandana’s achievement a case against the allegations that the university teachers discriminate against students of SC category. “Allegations have been made that teachers discriminate against Dalit students in the university but they are false. In our university, education is the only priority,” said Gupta.

The 24-year-old doctor, who hails from Ballia, said her success would be more meaningful if it becomes an inspiration for girls of her community.

Vandana believes discrimination against Dalits is prevalent in the society and it can be eradicated by providing good quality education to Dalit children.

“Many intelligent children from my community in my village do not get the opportunity to study in good schools or colleges. They have no money and have to work to fulfill their necessities,” she said.

After completing her MBBS, she wants to pursue a masters in medical science and excel as a medical professional.

Hard work and ‘interest’ in the subject remains her key to success. “The MBBS course is so vast that it is impossible to mug up the entire syllabus. If we study with interest, only then can we succeed in our field,” claimed Vandana, who puts in four to six hours of study every day, and hopes to become a paediatrician one day.

KGMU convocation today

LUCKNOW: King George Medical University will host its ninth convocation ceremony on Sunday. While Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav will be the chief guest at the convocation, a total of 305 students will be awarded their degrees.

Addressing a press conference in Lucknow Saturday, KGMU Vice-Chancellor Professor DK Gupta said the CM will also inaugurate three new buildings, including a dental building, an OPD building and Advance Centre for Research, ahead of the the ceremony.

Governor B L Joshi, who is also the Chancellor of the university, will preside over the ceremony.


The Indian Express

Posted on: September 30, 2013


India must regain leadership position in education: President Pranab Mukherjee

President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said there was a time India had renowned seats of learning which attracted scholars from far and wide and the country has to regain its leadership position in education.

Speaking on the occasion of Teachers’ Day, Mukherjee said: “There was a time when we had renowned seats of learning like Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramshila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri.”

“They attracted scholars from far and wide. The powerful minds who taught at such universities created an exalted position for our ancient education system. We have to regain our leadership position. We look towards teachers to guide the way,” he said.

Mukherjee honoured 378 teachers from across the country on Teachers’ Day, which is celebrated on September 5, the birth anniversary of India’s second president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.

Mukherjee emphasised the need to create systems for continuous assessment of the quality of education and the outcome of country’s educational inputs.

“Since we won our independence, we, in India, have done very well in the fields of science, technology, innovation and economic development. Yet, we find that despite our accomplishments, we cannot claim to have evolved into a truly developed society,” he said.

Mukherjee said development is not only about factories, dams and roads but about people, their values and their faithfulness to their spiritual and cultural heritage.

“An inclusive approach is critical for achieving our developmental goals. We have to empower our children, their parents and communities in every part of India,” he said.

Expressing “sadness” over the male-female gap in literacy, Mukherjee said: “Nothing is more saddening than the sight of a girl child being denied education.”

DNA India ion-president-pranab-mukherjee

Posted on: September 5, 2013


NHRC notice to HRD Ministry on discrimination against Dalit students

New Delhi

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken a very serious view of the alleged rampant caste discrimination against Dalit students in various educational institutions in the country, which led to 18 such students committing suicide in the last four years. The Commission issued a notice to the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development seeking a report on the incidents within four weeks.

It also referred to a media report, which alleged fierce caste based discrimination and violence against Dalit students in the Patna University hostel earlier this year.

The NHRC said it also received a complaint from a non-government organisation — Ahmedabad-based Navsarjan Trust — which, quoting media reports, said 18 Dalit students committed suicides during the last four years in premier educational institutions including the Indian Institute of Technology at Mumbai and Kanpur, Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

The NHRC said the news report, if true, reflected widespread prevalence of discrimination towards Dalits in the educational institutions driving them to take the extreme step.

The State had the responsibility and duty to ensure that an atmosphere was created in the educational institutions wherein everyone, irrespective of the caste, creed or religion, could pursue studies.

The Hindu, June 6, 2013 tion-against-dalit-students/article4787296.ece

Posted on: June 7, 2013


Online registration free for Dalit students in DU


New Delhi

“Online registration will cost Rs 50 for general and OBC students. There will be no fee for SC/ST and physically handicapped category students,” said dean of students’ welfare J M Khurana.

Students can pay the amount through credit or debit cards, he said.

The cost for online registration has been brought down from Rs 100 to Rs 50. Until last year, students from SC/ST/PH categories could not register online.

Khurana said the decision was made to make admission process easier for students, especially those coming from other states.

For those who want to fill the form manually, Khurana said registration fees will be Rs 100 for general and OBC students, and Rs 50 for SC/ST/PH students.

“There will two types of OMR forms. One for students under general and OBC categories, and another for SC/ST/PH students. Applicants have to only choose their courses in the forms,” Khurana said.

This time, there will be four additional information required to be filled by students.
Information about family income, mobile number, the kind of schooling and area of the school will also have to be filled in the OMR form.

“This additional information help us create a data about students from outside Delhi,” said Khurana, adding that SMS alerts will also be sent
to students at the time of admission.

Deccan Herald, June 3, 2013

Posted on: June 4, 2013


Odisha: Govt to distribute free laptops to tribal, Dalit students

Press Trust India

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government on Sunday launched State Youth Policy with provisions of free laptops for students belonging to tribal, dalit and BPL categories besides scholarship provision for ST and SC girls who want to study technical subjects.

“To bridge the digital divide all the meritorious students at plus two level will be provided with free laptops. Under this initiative, special focus would also be given to girls and students belonging to SC and ST communities,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said after launch of the policy here.

The CM Patnaik said career counselling centres at all colleges will be set up to guide the students to choose a prospective career.

Patnaik said the policy lays special emphasis on girls and young women, migrant youth, young men and women from ST, SC and minority groups, school drop-outs and unemployed youth, youth with disability and other disadvantaged youth.

Stating that capacity building through education and training is an important aspect of the new youth policy, the Chief Minister said career counselling centres at all colleges will be set up to guide the students to choose a prospective career.

Similarly, scholarship for higher education and professional education will be given to students to pursue higher studies, he said adding that the Mission Yuva Shakti, a new initiative under this policy, will promote SHGs (self help group) among the youth to explore their potential for self-employment.

Biju Yuva Sha-ShaktiKaran Yojana will be extended to rural areas, wherein the youth clubs will be provided with financial support of Rs 10,000, he said. As sports and games play an important role in the development of personality, the new policy initiative gives special emphasis on sports and physical education, he said.

Accordingly, Patnaik said the BJD-led state government will constitute the Sports Authority of Odisha. “I am happy that over 14,000 participants representing different age groups, particularly the youth, were associated with the policy formulation process, he said. The policy provides for creation of several new institutions and facilities and provision of financial assistance and incentives to youth, he said.

IBN Live, April 7, 2013 83725-37-64.html

Posted on: April 7, 2013


What Are You Doing to Fix India’s Broken Education System?

By Rakesh Mani

It is now almost four years since I first walked through a series of winding by-lanes in a Mumbai slum toward my new job as a teacher at a low-income school. I was forced to confront India’s educational inequities squarely in the eye. Students filed into a dilapidated old school building, and my own musty classroom, crammed with cupboards, barely left any room to move.

What was more jarring than my physical surroundings, however, was the magnitude of my students’ achievement gap. Only a handful of my third-grade students could read first-grade books, and almost all struggled with elementary arithmetic. Despite this being an English-language school, few teachers – and fewer students – could speak the language at all. Indeed, most of my students were unable to recognize basic alphabets or perform simple addition.

This was compounded by the sobering fact that families in my slum scrounged to send their kids – boys and girls – to the very best schools they could afford. Why? Because they recognized that education was their only weapon against penury and struggle. They dreamed of their children going on to build livelihoods in a burgeoning economy and pulling them out of the slums.
Rubina, a fourth grade student at the Umedbhai Patel School in Mumbai, Maharashtra, in this Aug., 2010 photo.Courtesy of Rakesh Mani Rubina, a fourth grade student at the Umedbhai Patel School in Mumbai, Maharashtra, in this Aug., 2010 photo.

Unfortunately, the poor quality of instruction (and high levels of teacher absenteeism) across the proliferation of shoddy schools ensures that they will hardly be able to compete – whether for university admissions or for jobs – with students who can afford expensive, high-quality schooling. Moreover, according to the National Family Health Survey, India now has the highest rate of child malnourishment on the planet – almost twice that of sub-Saharan Africa.

To be fair, successive governments have attempted to tackle this. The late M.G. Ramachandran, the development-focused chief minister of Tamil Nadu, believed offering free meals at school would not only address malnourishment but encourage more students to attend regularly. Despite initial skepticism from various experts, his school meal program was wildly successful and was gradually expanded nationally. Mr. Ramachandran’s effort gave birth to India’s landmark Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan program, which operates a multibillion-dollar annual budget for establishing new schools and providing students with free textbooks, uniforms and a midday meal.

Indeed, it has helped raise enrollment rates dramatically but has failed in many other respects. First, it has not even dented the issue of child malnourishment. Also, it not been accompanied by an increase in the number of trained teachers, resulting in unwieldy class sizes and low-quality instruction. Although the government raised salaries to attract talented teachers, they have often lacked adequate training and have remained largely unaccountable. Finally, the enrollment rates distract from the fact that dropout rates are alarmingly high. In Mumbai, for example, enrollment rates surpass 95 percent, but only a small fraction of students will graduate.

The situation across the rest of the country is not much different – according to recent figures, 4 percent of Indian children never start school, 57 percent don’t complete primary school and almost 90 percent — around 172 million — will not complete secondary school. These numbers should deeply anger Indians and force them to question society’s priorities and values.

For several years, important voices have waxed eloquent on the sheer economic potential of India’s young population. Around 30 percent of the country – close to 350 million children – is under the age of 15. Given this, statisticians predict that India’s labor force will grow by a staggering 100 million over the next decades, over 10 times the corresponding figure in China. By some estimates, over 25 percent of the global workforce will be Indian by 2030.

These numbers make one thing clear: the entire world has a social and economic stake in ensuring that India provides top-quality education to its children. But the harshness of the inequity suggests that the debate ought to be more about what is morally right.

Despite India’s dazzling economic growth, the bigger growth story over the last two decades has been that of inequity, which is growing faster today than at any time since independence. Underinvestment and ineffective governance in health and education services have played a key role. The gross domestic product growth figures that many see as a vital barometer of the nation’s progress are merely a measure of economic activity, not public benefit. Indians must realize that, despite the self-congratulatory mood of the elite, economic gains have accrued disproportionately to a privileged few because the vast majority lacks the education and the health to participate in this progress.

Back in 1964, the government’s Kothari Commission advised that India spend 6 percent of its G.D.P. on education. However, in the years since, total educational outlays have consistently fallen short of that mark. This year, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has proposed a fresh commission to analyze the state of education in the country. What matters, however, is whether India can summon the political will to dramatically boost education spending.

The write-offs, on just direct taxes, that the government offers corporate India comes close to $20 billion. Directing even a fraction of this amount away from businesses and toward improving the access and quality of school education would make a monumental difference in the lives of the bottom four quintiles of the population. Otherwise, lopsided growth is bound to worsen India’s deepest problems – whether corruption, extreme poverty or religious conflict.

But money alone won’t be enough. It will have to be accompanied by prudent policy initiatives to attract more qualified professionals into the education sector, which many avoid because of low pay and prestige. One idea is for the government to introduce an All-India Education Service, much like the other civil services, that seeks to address this. Despite the good work of many private institutions and nongovermental organizations, it will be impossible to reach all sections of society, in all corners of the country, without a coordinated central government effort.

In just a few more decades, the implications of India’s apathy will have profound implications – not just within the country, but around the world as well.

The New York Times – India Ink, March 25, 2013

Posted on: March 25, 2013


Why girls in India are still missing out on the education they need

By Rachel Williams

Meena (not her real name) didn’t tell her parents when the older boys started harassing her on the hour-long walk to school from her home in Madanpur Khadar, south Delhi – grabbing her hand and shouting “kiss me” – because she knew she would get the blame, as if she had somehow encouraged them. She was right: when her family found out, they banned her from going back to school, worried about the effect on their “honour” if she was sexually assaulted. The plan now is to get her married. She is 16.

Gulafsha is luckier: her mother is determined she will become a doctor. But there are 70 pupils in a class at her school, and the teachers often simply don’t turn up. The drinking water tanks are so filthy the pupils bring their own water. “I have never gone to a toilet at school in all these years, they are so bad,” the 14-year-old says. She doesn’t know how, but somehow her mother saves 900 rupees a month to pay for private tuition in three subjects.

Sumen, 35, is battling for her child’s future, too. Her nine-year-old son has learning disabilities and she has tried and failed to get him into school every year since he was old enough. Finally, the authorities have agreed he should get some education, but it’s only for one day a week. Sumen, a domestic help who never went to school herself, wonders if she should have tried to teach him at home: “But if I haven’t studied, how much could I do for him?”

Four years ago, the World Bank upgraded India from a “poor” country to a middle-income one. As commentators were at pains to point out in November, when the UK announced it would end aid to India from 2015, the country has a space programme, 48 billionaires and its own aid budget. Under its Right to Education (RTE) Act, passed in 2009, a free and compulsory education is guaranteed for all children aged between six and 14, and the most recent figures for primary school enrollment stand at an impressive-sounding 98%.

But going to school, as those monitoring progress on the millennium development goal of achieving universal primary education have increasingly realised, is one thing: the quality of the education you get is another. Within government schools pupils face numerous challenges, says Oxfam India’s Anjela Taneja. Overcrowded classrooms, absent teachers and unsanitary conditions are common complaints, and can lead parents to decide it is not worth their child going to school.

A 2010 report by the National Council for Teacher Education estimated that an additional 1.2 million teachers were needed to fulfil the RTE Act requirements, and last year the RTE Forum, a civil society collective of around 10,000 non-governmental organisations (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.

Earlier this year, the independent Annual Status of Education Report into rural schools found declining levels of achievement, with more than half of children in standard five – aged around 10 – unable to read a standard two-level text. “If you want to end child labour, you have to fix the education system,” Taneja says. “People are aware of what education is and what it is not.”

Nor do enrolment figures necessarily reflect who is actually attending school, she says. The number of primary age children not in school in India was put at 2.3 million in 2008, but other estimates suggest it could be as high as 8 million. According to an Indian government report, the primary drop-out rate in 2009 was 25%.

It is girls, and marginalised groups such as the very poor and the disabled, who are often left behind. While girls attend primary school in roughly equal numbers to boys, the gap widens as they get older and more are forced to drop out to help with work at home or get married.

Of the out-of-school children in 2008, 62% were girls; they make up two-thirds of illiterate 15- to 24-year-olds. And two-thirds of those not in school were from those lowest in the caste system, tribal groups and Muslim communities, despite those historically oppressed groups making up only 43% of India’s children. Meanwhile, neighbourhood “low-budget” private schools serving low-income families desperate – like Gulafsha’s mother – to provide their children with a “quality” education have mushroomed. But they are unregulated, and can lack trained teachers and proper infrastructure, says Taneja.

Madanpur Khadar, a “resettlement colony” begun in 2000 to house families moved on from newly cleared slums, has 145,000 residents. But the number of plots given out for homes is only really enough to accommodate around 60,000 to 70,000 people, explains Alok Thakur of Efrah (Empowerment for Rehabilitation, Academic & Health), a grassroots organisation working to promote socio-economic development in some of Delhi’s poorest areas.

The buildings are made of brick, but 90% of households have no toilets, Thakur says. The sewers running along the edges of the bumpy, often unmade streets are only partially covered. Here and there great piles of glistening, treacle-dark sludge have apparently been dredged out. Animals root through heaps of rotting rubbish, and one large open space has become a shallow lake of foul-smelling filth. Pigs snuffle at the detritus littering its margins.

Kamlesh’s hands quiver as she reads her testimony, the microphone bouncing her words off the surrounding buildings. Efrah has organised a “jan sunvai”, or public hearing, giving residents the chance to air their grievances about the colony to a panel of experts, and the 35-year-old mother is speaking on education. At the area’s three primary schools, the students number 2,176, 1,148 and 1,311, her submission says. They have 33, 14 and 20 teachers respectively. The quality and quantity of teaching is insufficient.

Inside one of the schools, some of the gloomy, bare-walled classrooms have low benches and desks. In others, the little girls sit on the floor, books in their laps. In several, no teacher is present; one man appears to be responsible for three of the small rooms. When the heavy metal gates at the entrance are opened at the end of the school day, an incredible crush of children pours into the squelchy mud of the lane outside.

Back at the hearing, the kind of street harassment suffered by Meena – sometimes referred to as “Eve-teasing” – and its effect on girls’ education is another major concern. The brutal gang rape and murder of a Delhi student in December sparked protests across the country calling for changes in cultural attitudes and policing, but young women here say they feel scared by the way some men behave. “We complain to the police and [they] stand where they are and watch the girls being teased,” Meenakshi, 18, tells the audience.

A series of measures have been brought in since the December attack aimed at making women safer, but despite these, there has been a spate of attacks on women in Delhi since the beginning of March, including four reported assaults on girls under 18. Only a fraction of such attacks are reported.

The Global Campaign for Education (GCE), a coalition of 26 NGOs and teaching unions, wants all nations to allocate at least 6% of GDP to education. India has been promising that since 1968, Taneja says, but the figure has never topped 4%, and it is currently 3.7%. It is an issue of political will, rather than a lack of cash, she suggests: education is not a vote-winning issue in a system of frequent elections, where pledges need to be deliverable immediately.

Nor do policymakers have a personal stake: the political classes don’t tend to send their children to government schools. “It seems to me we can afford everything else,” Taneja notes.

As the 2015 deadline for the millennium goal on primary education looms, the experiences of girls and women such as Meena, Gulafsha and Sumen have a particular resonance. On current trends, a Unesco-commissioned report concluded in October, the goal will be missed “by a large margin”.

Progress was initially rapid, but has stalled since 2008, and 61 million children remain out of education. But as thoughts turn to replacement goals, attention is focusing not just on how to reach the remaining children, but on those who are now going to school but simply aren’t learning, says Save the Children’s Will Paxton, who leads on policy for the GCE UK. “The scale of the issue is pretty enormous,” he says. “Not least because if they don’t learn anything they disengage and drop out.”

Targets to tackle inequality in who gets to go to school, and to push nations to help the most marginalised young people in education, will be another GCE focus. “Our argument is that the existing MDG doesn’t really do enough to provide a strong incentive to worry about the hard-to-reach groups,” Paxton says.

Meena, who comes from a Dalit family – the caste formerly known as “untouchables”– had imagined herself working for the police, or becoming a teacher. “My parents are looking for a boy for me,” she says. “They say I can get married and then I can study. But I know that once I get married, it will become very difficult. My dream will never come true.”

The Guardian, March 11, 2013

Posted on: March 11, 2013


Include dalit literature in university syllabus: Experts


PALANPUR: Participants at a two-day national seminar on ‘Dalit literature: Social and literary perspectives’ have stressed upon the need to include Dalit literature in the university syllabus.

Literary experts from various states participated at the event that concluded at BPB Arts and MH Guru Commerce College at Unjha in Mehsana district on Friday. The seminar was sponsored by University Grants Commission.

In his keynote address, Satya Narayana—associate professor of English at English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad—said, “An institution can do a lot to accelerate the cause of dalits. Compared to Karnataka and Maharashtra, Gujarat is lagging far behind in popularizing dalit literature. There is a need to spread dalit literature in order to inform its eminence in changing social set up.”

Secretary of Gujarat Dalit Sahitya Academy, Harish Manglam, said, “Dalit is not a caste but a synonym of change, a revolution and a movement.”

The Times of India, March 10, 2013 tional-seminar-foreign-languages-university

Posted on: March 10, 2013


In India, Making Small Changes on a Large Scale

By D. D. Guttenplan

It was the taxi ride from the Mumbai airport that pulled Sharath Jeevan off the corporate ladder. Although born in Chennai, India, he had been raised mostly in Saudi Arabia and England, graduating from Cambridge with a degree in economics. An M.B.A. from Insead, a prestigious France-based business school, led to a management consultant’s job at Booz Allen and then a job with eBay in Britain.

“I’d go back to India every summer, and the only option was to go through Mumbai,” he recalled. “We’d drive through the slums and kids would run up to the cab to sell things, or to beg. It made me see how on a knife edge their lives were. Education seemed like an area where you can make a real difference.”

The problem is not a lack of schools. “Ninety-five percent of kids in India have access to free government schools within a half-mile of where they live,” he said, a distance of 800 meters. The problem is that many of these schools offer poor-quality education. “The average Indian fifth grader reads like a second grader in Britain or the U.S. Two-thirds of them can’t read a paragraph or do simple fractions,” Mr. Jeevan said.

His new venture, Schools and Teachers Innovating for Results, which will be officially introduced on Monday in Delhi, aims to change that. Backed by funding from the British Department for International Development and a number of British charities, STIR has spent the past 15 months researching the most successful “micro-innovations” — small, inexpensive, easy-to-implement changes — in classrooms across India.

“We visited 300 schools and conducted 600 face-to-face meetings, speaking to over 3,000 teachers,” he said in an interview at the STIR office in London.

The explosive growth of Indian schools means that many teachers have had little or no formal training.

“Indian teachers are used to thinking of themselves as instruments of a ministry or of government policy,” Mr. Jeevan said. “It was the first time many of them had been asked about anything.”

“Through innovation, we wanted to get teachers to think of themselves more seriously — as professionals,” he said. “The idea is to create a platform to collect the best of these micro-innovations, test them to see if they work, and then take them to scale. There are 1.3 million schools in India, so scale is a huge problem.”

Some of the ideas, recounted in STIR materials, will sound familiar to parents in wealthier countries. At Majeediya Madarsa-e-Jadeed, a school catering to a predominantly Muslim community in Seelampur, Iram Mumshad, a teacher, noticed that parents, many of whom worked as day laborers, seemed unaware of how to support their children’s education. To engage parents, the school started incorporating their feedback on children’s behavior at home into school reports, building relationships between teachers and parents, and underlining the importance of parental support.

At Babul Uloom, a public school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in East Delhi, Sajid Hasan realized that his students started school with fewer learning skills than students from wealthier parts of the city — a gap that seemed to increase with each passing month. So Mr. Hasan, a member of the Teach for India program that puts young, highly motivated teachers in some of the country’s toughest schools, decided to give his students extra time to catch up by extending the school day for two hours.

“India normally has one of the shortest school days in the world,” Mr. Jeevan said. Most schools finish by 1 p.m. The two extra hours, he said, “gives the children more time to learn and also more structure in their lives. It also helps the teachers to focus on the students’ current level to help get them to where they need to be.”

But some of the innovations have a uniquely Indian flavor. Students at the S.R. Capital School in Shahadra struggled with the poetry included in the curriculum, yet they all seemed well versed in the latest Bollywood hits. So Bindu Bhatia, their teacher, fit the words of the texts studied in class to the tune of popular songs, then encouraged the students to perform the poems, making classes more fun and giving students added confidence in approaching potentially daunting material.

After it is officially introduced in Delhi, STIR plans to open additional hubs in Mumbai and Bangalore — big ambitions for a program that has just 10 full-time employees, four in Britain and six in India. But Mr. Jeevan has a track record of developing similar programs.

While he was at eBay, he started eBay for Charity, which let buyers and sellers on the auction site donate a portion of the price of items they bought and sold to the nonprofit organization of their choice. The initiative has raised €43 million, or $65 million, for British charities. Then he introduced a new program, Teaching Leaders.

“We know that Sharath is really good at taking an organization from scratch and building it, because that’s what he did with Teaching Leaders,” said Sally Morgan, an adviser to Absolute Return for Kids, a hedge-fund education charity that is one of STIR’s main backers.

Based on the recognition that standardized tests showed four times as much variation within schools as between schools, Teaching Leaders was started by Mr. Jeevan in 2008 “to help great teachers become great leaders and managers.”

The program was given initial backing by Absolute Return for Kids and within five years, the results were sufficiently impressive to win the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a £10 million, or $15 million, grant to expand the program across Britain.

“Sharath is very focused, very driven by results,” said Ms. Morgan, who also serves as the chairwoman of Ofsted, the British government’s school inspection agency. “So when he came to us and was able to show that seemingly simple things — like using phonics when teaching English as a second language, instead of making the students start by memorizing grammar or rules — had a big impact in the classroom, it ticked a lot of our boxes.”

“Even if you find something that works in your own class, there was no way of sharing those results with anyone else,” Ms. Morgan said. “People who want to make change happen can feel really isolated.”

STIR is designed to allow innovative teachers to feel like they are part of a network. “Small changes in practice can make a big difference in the classroom,” Mr. Jeevan said. “But what matters more in the long term is the change in how teachers think of themselves.”

The New York Times, March 3, 2013

Posted on: March 3, 2013


Kancha Ilaiah: Even if 10% dalit children got English education, India would change

By Swati Mathur

Kancha Ilaiah is a political scientist, writer and dalit activist. Speaking with Swati Mathur, Ilaiah discussed the growth of a dalit intellectual group, how this differs from dalit politicians, reservations — and the one ingredient which could make a huge difference to real development:

Recently, as dalit leaders criticised Ashis Nandy’s views, you supported his right to free speech, is the dalit intellectual markedly different from the dalit politician?

Well, dalit politics is an older idea. Dalits began emerging within the Congress and socialist parties. Eventually, they didn’t get the space they should have, especially in the communist parties. For example, Bengal, where the communists ruled, has seen no prominent dalits in the mainstream political realm.

The dalit intellectual stream is a later development. It required sophisticated education which the political stream did not — for instance, Karpoori Thakur, an almost illiterate barber, became chief minister of Bihar. The dalit intellectual class is emerging. With all the humiliations and the baggage, some are surging into the intellectual space.

I think the connection bet-ween the two groups is B R Ambedkar. He was an outstanding intellectual, yet discriminated against — that’s when he organised anti-untouchable movements, entered Parliament and went on to write the Indian Constitution.

But the fact is, at a mass level, at forums like the Jaipur Literature Festival which over a lakh attend, dalits still remain under 0.05%. Dalits have not come to formulate sophisticated thought through novels or story-writing. There’s some work in theoretical writing but there’s still no dalit intellectual close to where Ambedkar was.

Why is this group growing slowly?

The main barrier is the lack of English education, still a faraway dream for most dalits. The liberal arts aren’t an operational zone for dalits. One solution is to encourage dalit children to study the arts. Our educational focus is currently mediated by money, therefore, the interest in civil services, medicine and engineering. But for dalits to emerge as ideologues like Ambedkar, Nehru and Gandhi, a focus on liberal arts is necessary.

Why are several development targets for dalits still unmet?

Well, take someone like Maya-wati who ruled concretely in only one term — it’s not easy to fulfil such aspirations in a short span of time. And there’s a larger problem of priorities in her politics. The dalit Bahujan wants educational equality, establishing uniformly good schools for all children from nursery to class 12. No amount of land, jobs or money can bring true equality, only education can. To bring dalits on par, the only way is through education.

Mayawati isn’t serious about that. But she should recognise this. So should dalit leaders with the Congress, a ruling party which depends heavily on dalits, some in prime positions like Meira Kumar and Sushilkumar Shinde. They must push for the same language of instruction for all children — if upper-caste children are taught in English, we should be too. We’re demanding the same environment and opportunities. Then, after 30 years, remove reservations, let there be fair competition — dalit children will manage.

My parents were illiterate shepherds. With one generation of education, look where i am, speaking English, communicating with the world, going places. This is an asset dalit leaders must acknowledge and harness.

So you’d support continuing reservations?

The dalit’s main agenda is not reservations. My way of equality is English education. Even if 10% of our children got English education, the intellectual field would have changed. This country would have changed. My hope is education, not reservation, and I emphasise, English education.

The Times of India, February 15, 2013 ancha-ilaiah-meira-kumar

Posted on: February 15, 2013


Why the state of India’s primary education is shocking

By G Pramod Kumar

Do you expect a steady migration of students from government to private schools and a rapid fall in quality of education in a country where education is a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right?

Then, that is the story of rural India, where 70 percent of the country’s population live. Its present and future generations are in a royal mess: poor families are spending a lot of hard-to-find cash to get half-baked education for their children.

Sooner than later, India’s education sector will resemble its crumbling public health system. AFP

Even as the government undertakes to educate all its children under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, private schools are mushrooming in rural India and attract 10 % more students every year, compared to the previous year.

It is such a tragedy that by next year, when UPA seeks fresh mandate for all its welfare schemes, 41 percent of the primary school children will be paying for their education and there is no guarantee that what they learn is of any quality or consequence.

At this rate, sooner than later, India’s education sector will resemble its crumbling public health system in which three-fourth of the people pay for their health expenditure.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2012) for rural India, released a few days ago by PRATHAM, an NGO, exposes the shocking mess that our school education is in. With longitudinal data from 2008, the report shows how the country is falling into dangerous lows both in terms of quality and the invasion of the private sector.

Let’s look at some key facts of the ASER.

First, on the quality of education:

In 2008, only about 50 percent of Standard 3 students could read a Standard 1 text, but by 2012, it declined to 30 percent – a fall of 16 percent. About 50 percent of the Std 3 kids cannot even correctly recognise digits up to 100, where as they are supposed to learn two digit subtraction. In 2008, about 70 percent of the kids could do this.

Not only that the country is unable to improve the learning skills of half its primary school children, in the last four years, it has fallen to alarming lows. Similar deterioration in standards of education was also noted among Std 5 students.

Importantly, the report notes that the decline is cumulative, which means that the “learning decline” gets accumulated because of neglect over the years. The poor quality of education from Std 1 pulls down their rate of learning progressively so that by the time they are in Std 5, their level of learning is not even comparable to that of Std 2.

The private schools are “relatively unaffected” but their low standards remain low. They have also shown a “downturn” in maths beyond number recognition.

The poor quality of education and rate of decline are however not uniform across India. Some states are low in quality, but are staying where they are (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh) while some have higher levels of education, which are neither improving nor deteriorating (Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab).

It also says that the decline is more noticeable since 2010, when the RTE came into effect, indicating targets of blanket coverage compromising quality and standards.

Second, on privatisation:

The report notes that the private sector is making huge inroads into education in rural India. By 2019, when the RTE would have done a decade, it will be the majority service provider. The private sector involvement will also be strengthened by 25 percent quota of the government (under the RTE Act).

Quoting DISE (District Information System of Education) data, it says that Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Goa have more than 60% of private enrollment in primary schools. Andhra, Maharashtra and Karnataka are at 40 percent, while UP is at 50%. Ironically, the highest private sector enrollment is in Kerala, where successive governments claim commitment to welfare policies, particularly on education and health.

Besides private schools, parents also spend considerable amount of money on private tuitions, making quality education more inaccessible to people without money.

What do these findings tell us?

That the country is in a serious crisis – its quality of school education is startlingly low and is in free fall, while the private sector is exploiting this weakness even in rural India. Although the study doesn’t throw considerable light on the reasons of the decline and possible corrective steps, it does indicate a correlation between the acceleration of the deterioration and the implementation of the RTE Act.

If the correlation is correct, it is clear yet again that a populist and insincere political instrument does more harm than good. When the Act was passed, there were misgivings by many – particularly on the haste, lack of appropriate consultation with all stakeholders and also on the logic of applying a uniform principle across states with huge disparity in coverage and quality of education. In some states such as Kerala, Himachal and Punjab it was evidently superfluous.

Even after two years, it’s still not clear, how the finances are met and if the states are committed at all. The estimates in 2010 for the implementation of RTE was pegged at about Rs 210,000 crores with centre shouldering 68 percent of the burden.

Whether the RTE is being implemented or not, it’s abundantly clear that it is certainly not working. “There has been a feeling that RTE may have led to relaxation of classroom teaching since all exams and assessments are scrapped and no child is to be kept back. Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation(CCE) is now a part of the law and several states are attempting to implement some form of CCE as they understand it,” says the report.

“Does CCE catch this decline? Are teachers equipped to take corrective action as the law prescribes? Is corrective action going to be taken? Given the magnitude of the problem, it will be a good idea to focus just on basics at every standard and not treat it as a “remedial” measure. At this stage, teaching-learning of basic foundational skills should be the main agenda for primary education in India.”

As the report notes there is a national crisis in learning. The quality of education and performance of the students in both government and private schools have to improve and the government has to check the invasion of the sector by private capital.

Higher education has long since been sold out and today it is only the preserve of those with money. With or our without RTE, even the primary school education is moving in the same direction.

If markets are to run the country, why do we need governments?

Firstpost India, January 22, 2013

Posted on: January 22, 2013


India’s education-for-all dream comes to a halt as cash-strapped government slashes RTE budget

By Ritika Chopra

The government’s attempt at nursing the Indian economy back to health could temporarily hurt UPA’s initiative to make education a justiciable right.

Concerned over the country’s fiscal health, the finance ministry is set to shave Rs.2,000 crore off the allocated budget for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) run by the department of school education under the ministry of human resource development (HRD).

For the uninitiated, SSA is the primary vehicle for delivering the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

This year RTE Act had received Rs.25,555 crore allocation, an increase of 21.7 per cent compared to the previous budget year.

According to HRD officials, this budget cut was informally communicated to the HRD ministry during the meeting of revised estimates held in the third week of November.

The finance ministry has informed the HRD ministry of Rs.1900 crore deduction from the higher education budget and Rs.3,200 crore from school education budget of which Rs.2,000 crore will go from the SSA kitty.

“The finance ministry had initially threatened to cut the allocation of those ministries which haven’t been utilising their funds. Three out of 80 government departments were completely on track as far as meeting the half-yearly expenditure target was concerned and the department of school education was among the three.

Despite that our budget allocation has been reduced,”said a senior HRD official, who did not wish to be identified.

The department of school education had apparently met the target of utilising 60 per cent of its budget allocation till September. Although the cut on SSA comes to roughly two to three per cent of the total RTE Act budget (including states share) for 2012-13, HRD officials do admit that the deduction is still substantive and it will affect the implementation of the legislation.

This is because RTE’s effective roll-out has anyway been plagued with fund shortfalls with budgetary provision in the last two years being only half of what was estimated.

The HRD ministry received Rs.21,000 crore in 2011-12 against its demand of Rs.40,500 crore and this year the allocation went up marginally to Rs.25,555 crore instead of the ministry’s estimated Rs.48,000 crore.

The HRD ministry received a sum of Rs.25,555 crore against its demand of Rs.48,000 crore.

India Today, December 17, 2012 -hrd/1/238105.html

Posted on: December 17, 2012


India, once cradle of civilisation, now poorest in education: President Pranab Mukherjee   Read more

Press Trust India

President Pranab Mukherjee has lamented that India, once the cradle of civilisation, is now the poorest in terms of education, literacy and knowledge.

Describing lack of literacy as the biggest challenge facing the country, Mukherjee on Tuesday said the largest number of illiterates in the world resided in India.

He was speaking after laying the foundation stone of an auditorium at the Sat Paul School in Ludhiana.

The President, in his interaction with a few students of the school, exhorted them to love the institution and respect the teachers if they wanted to make it big in life.

Listing the hurdles in the way of India’s growth, he said the largest numbers of illiterates in the world reside in India.

The country, which was once considered the cradle of civilisation, is now the poorest in terms of education, literacy and knowledge, he said.

“We had some of the centres of excellence such as Takshila and Nalanda where people from all over the world came. We have to achieve them again,” Mukherjee said.

The President underlined the importance of knowledge economy and said the country was doing some catching up through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Right to Education.

“We are trying to catch up through Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan and Right To Education as these are probably the fundamentals through which we can build the educational system of the country,” he said.

He noted that “today every economic and social thinker believes that knowledge is going to be the most important instrument and ingredient of building up the new economic order.

“Therefore, we have to build up informed, knowledgeable, rational citizens and that can be done only through such schools of excellence,” Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee also used the occasion to drive home the importance of teachers and the significance of teacher-student ratio.

“Teacher-student ratio is not mere a mechanical ratio. It is the very essence of a country’s education system. The personal attention a teacher gives to a student makes all the difference,” he said, introducing himself as a “teacher” to the students.

Mukherjee recalled that “I started my life as a teacher and as they say, once teacher, always a teacher.”

“If you want to succeed in love, you should also love your institution and respect your teacher. That way you can achieve anything,” he told the students, adding he entered politics accidentally as he hailed from a political family.

India Today, November 28, 2012 n-president-pranab-mukherjee/1/235077.html

Posted on: November 28, 2012


Education best antidote for violence, inequality

Education is the best antidote for violence, intolerance and inequality, President Pranab Mukherjee said here today.

After laying foundation stone for two separate hostels of tribal students in one of the worst Naxal-hit districts of Chhattisgarh, he said faith in humanity must be restored in the minds of youths so that the country can find its rightful place in the world.

“Education-embedded in values of peace, tolerance and humanity, which is at the same time relevant to society and the economy-is the best antidote for violence, intolerance and inequality.

“The time to act, my young friends, is now. Do not miss opportunities which come your way,” he said in his address after visiting the Ramakrishna Ashram here.

Mukherjee urged the youths to work for development of the society.

“The country is growing. Today we don’t get doctors in villages. We have hospitals and buildings there. But they do not want to go there. 70 per cent of our population lives in village. There are over six lakh villages. Unless the feeling to work for the society or the country doesn’t come from within, nobody will like to go there,” he said.

Mukherjee reminisced as to how he earned a post graduate degree by paying Rs 268 as total fee for a two-year course in Kolkata.

“Today people are becoming IIT engineers, IIM graduates. They do not want to work in villages. I feel the government should collect taxes and develop more institutes like IITs and IIMs so that people can acquire required skills,” he said in his address in Hindi amid clapping from the audience which comprised a number of tribals.

Business Standard, November 7, 2012 ality-pranab/77114/

Posted on: November 7, 2012


Dalit school dropouts narrate their discrimination accounts

The day-long public hearing held here on Sunday on ‘child rights violations’ and the discriminated children subsequently becoming school dropouts may pave way for the victims entering the school premises once again in the next couple of weeks, if the recommendations given by an expert panel that listened to the affected children are transformed into action.

The Palayamkottai-based Human Rights Education Protection Council, in its survey conducted in 52 villages of the district, claimed that 1,680 Dalit school dropouts had been identified. Based on the case study submitted by the organisation, the public hearing was conducted. Of the 23 Dalit school dropout cases presented at the meet in document format, 19 were from Arunthathiyar community and 10 of them appeared before the panel to narrate how they were tormented physically and emotionally in their schools by teachers and their classmates. All the students said that they were referred repeatedly by the name of their caste and discriminated.

When Nagaraj, a former fifth standard student of an aided primary school at Kalakkad, alleged that he was beaten by his teacher without any valid reason and the pain of being beaten up in front of his classmates ultimately drove him out of the school, Dr. Vasanthi Devi asked the official from Office of District Elementary Educational Officer to place under suspension the teacher, Rajeshwari, and to make enquiries with the Headmaster.

The former Vice-Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University said that the teachers, besides clearing the doubts of slow learners by conducting special classes, should also teach students, particularly to the socially and economically marginalised ones, special skills and equip them to face the competitive situations in future.

K. Sekar, former 9th standard student of Theerthapathi Government Higher Secondary School at Ambasamudram, explained his case of discrimination on the school premises and how his transfer certificate was issued to him during the midway of academic year. P. Murugan, District Educational Officer, Cheranmahadevi Educational District, assured that he would conduct a comprehensive enquiry before Friday and submit a report to the panel.

The officer also assured that he would take immediate steps for readmitting the students in the schools of their choice to avoid recurrence of such unpleasant incidents in future.

Former Readers’ Editor of The Hindu S. Viswanathan, one of the panel members, suggested that the human rights activists, besides assisting the victims to file complaint with the police immediately after the incident, should also inform the officials of Department of Education about these uncivilised acts and submit a separate complaint to them.

“Even though the police chose to close the case stating that the complaint was false, education officials cannot do so in a hasty fashion as they will have to take some corrective measures through their department to settle the issue amicably and permanently,” Mr. Viswanathan said.

Tirunelveli MP S.S. Ramasubbu, who inaugurated the public hearing, said that though the governments through their schemes were taking sincere efforts to provide education to all children, the purpose was being defeated by the social discrimination prevailing on the school premises. “If we can provide better education to the Dalit children, it will empower them economically which will automatically ensure a social status for them. Hence, there should be no caste-based discrimination on the school premises. Anyone, including the teachers, violating it should be taken to task. At the same time, the Dalits’ security ensured by the law should not be misused,” Mr. Ramasubbu said.

The MP assured that he would discuss with the Collector the issue of operating more number of buses from Vallam to other areas to enable the students to reach their schools without any hassle.

Panel member and advocate T. Lajapathi Roy said that the victims’ parents and the activists should always take steps for filing of cases against the offenders so that it would gradually put an end to problems of similar nature in future.

Another panel member K.A. Manikumar said that the education officials should be proactive to the complaints of this nature so that it would check the menace of school dropouts.

Speaking to reporters, Dr. Vasanthi Devi said that the human rights education, which had already been included in the school curriculum in 18 States, should be introduced in Tamil Nadu also.

She stressed that complaint boxes should be installed on all school premises so that the victims would come forward to make complaints while concealing their identity.

The Hindu, November 5, 2012 ation-accounts/article4064737.ece

Posted on: November 5, 2012


Uttar Pradesh court hands out a life term for stealing Dalit students scholarship

By Piyush Srivastava

A court in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh has awarded life term to the principal of a school for pocketing the scholarships of Scheduled Caste students .

Barabanki’s Special Additional Session Judge Kalpana Mishra put the case of Madhuri Sinha, principal of the Bishun Memorial Bal Shiksha Mandir on Dewa Road, in the category of one of the most atrocious crimes and awarded her a life term.

The court also awarded 10 years of imprisonment to Satish Rawat, manager of the school. Besides this, the court also imposed a fine of Rs.14000 and Rs.16000, respectively on them.

They had filched Rs.61,920, which was meant as scholarship to the students in 1996-97, by maintaining a register of ghost students in a non-existent school.

The case came to light in 2000 when someone anonymously filed a complaint with the then district social welfare officer Gautam Kumar. After an initial inquiry, he lodged an FIR against the principal and manager of the school for corruption in Dalit students’ scholarship distribution.

Special public prosecutor Ajit Kumar Singh said it is one of the commonest cases of corruption in which the court has sent a very strong message to dishonest people, who line their pockets with public money meant for the poorest section of the society.

“It is a historic judgment which proves that the law is not tooth-less and the dishonest people should be prepared to face such harsh consequences. The timing is also very apt because the fight for an honest system is gaining ground in the country,” Singh told Mail Today.

“The anonymous complaint was received in 2000. In the due course of inquiry, it came to light that the school existed in 1976-77. The school became non-existent after 1977, though a board displaying its name remained. Although there was no student or teacher on its rolls, the principal and manager of the school showed in their records that there were 430 students, all of them belonging to SC. On the basis of this claim, the government released Rs.61,920 as each dalit student was entitled to a scholarship of Rs.144,” he said.

“Later on, the investigators traced a State Bank of India account in Barabanki which was in the name of Savita. The subsequent inquiry revealed that it was a fictitious name and the account was actually operated by Madhuri Sinha. Satish Rawat was hand in glove with her. So the cases were registered under Sections 419, 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the IPC for cheating and forgery and Section 325 of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Now poetic justice has been done with the principal being awarded life term the manager getting 10 years in jail,” Singh added.

India Today, November 2, 2012 ents-scholarship/1/227453.html

Posted on: November 2, 2012


Lack of access to education denies dalits right to gainful employment

By Jaideep Shenoy

MANGALORE: Access to education is an important indicator that helps one to understand Dalit development experience in Karnataka.

Illiterates among rural Dalit population is 45%, literates without formal schooling 1.2% and the literates who have acquired ability to read and write through adult education programme is very small, a study by Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSEIP), Mangalore University states.

As far as Dalits having attended lower primary schooling is concerned, it is 12.6%, higher primary 12.2% and that having attended up to high school is 10.4%. Dalits to have successfully completed high school and passed 10th and 12th standard is 12.6% respectively. Access to other professional and higher education is very low as far as rural Dalits are concerned in Karnataka, the study carried out in select districts points.

Those have done diploma, ITI and other professional certificate courses which are job oriented and crucial from the point of view of jobs or gainful employment in industry or related sectors is only 1.2%. General graduates such as BA, BCom, BSC is around 2.8% and general post graduates 0.4%. The technical and professional graduates such as engineering (BE) and medical (MBBS) is abysmal compared to their total population.

Access to employment opportunities is also very important to understand the dalit development in India. The occupational mobility is highly rigid in Indian society as the institution of caste and untouchability is influencing the employment opportunities and restricting the dalits to access the employment in most of the sectors. The percentage of dalits depending on agriculture sector for wage labour is almost 63 in the state.

Only 18.1% of the dalits are engaged in their own land for farm activities, the dalits engaged in livestock and dairying and nonfarm employment is only 1.9 and 2.6% respectively in the state. The private sector employment for Dalits is around 5.6% and around 2.7% dalits are engaged in government/related sectors for employment. The casual workers in rural non- agricultural activities are also around 5.7 percent the study points out.

The percentage of people working in agriculture and related activities are 78.9% to total Dalit working population and their mobility to other occupations is very less and it is also insignificant. Further, results reveal that nearly 60% of Dalit workers do not have subsidiary occupations and 17.6% of them also depend on their own land to find additional occupation. CSEIP carried out this study under a three-year programme sponsored by ICSSR.

The Times of India, October 29, 2012 riculture-sector-employment

Posted on: October 29, 2012


Study reveals discrimination in Karnataka schools

In what reveals the persistence of caste-based segregation of children in primary schools in rural Karnataka, around 13.7 per cent of Dalit children surveyed in the State have claimed that their teacher had asked them to sit separately from ‘higher caste’ children in the classroom, says a study released by the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Mangalore University.

Released on October 18 here, ‘Discrimination and social exclusion: A study on the development experience of Dalits in Karnataka’ was spread over ten taluks in Belgaum, Gulbarga, Chitradurga, Mysore and Kolar — chosen for their socio-cultural diversity and their considerable Scheduled Caste population.

Over ten months ending in July 2011, the study enumerated the harassment and discrimination faced by 2,425 Dalit families or 12,677 people in 50 villages, of which 825 families have children going to primary school.

Interviews with members of Dalit households threw up the same disconcerting facts in all districts, and the study concluded that the “practice of untouchability by teachers” was responsible for the segregation.

Discrimination is also seen during midday meals, with around 114 families admitting that their children have had to sit separately during lunch and were served in a separate set of plates.

Researchers have observed that school authorities disallow Dalit children from serving food or entering the kitchen.

Shockingly, while 72.8 per cent of the parents interviewed said their children have never been appointed class monitors, nearly 33 per cent of the parents said their children have been given the task of cleaning classrooms on a “frequent” basis and “during school functions and festivals”.

Though the survey reports a lesser degree of discrimination among the students themselves, it notes that just 31.4 per cent of Dalit children had been extended invitations to their ‘upper caste’ friends’ houses.

“When the Dalit children go to these houses, only some have said they have been allowed into the house. Even if they enter, they are only allowed up to the passage of the house,” states the study.
Higher education

Illiteracy remains a problem for the Scheduled Castes in the visited villages.

At 45 per cent, illiteracy is higher than the national average.

Even among the Dalit literates, the “access to professional and higher education is very low”: of those who can “read and write”, only 12.6 per cent had completed pre-university level courses; less than 1.2 per cent had gone on to complete diplomas and industrial training courses.

The Hindu, October 22, 2012 ols/article4019883.ece

Posted on: October 22, 2012


Here, Education May Be the Only Way Out

By Pratiksha Ramkumar

CHENNAI: After several failed attempts by the government to make the lives of slum dwellers better by providing them with basic amenities, social workers now believe education is the only way to improve the lot of the urban poor.

Selvi S, 38, a mother of two, brings her daughter and son for tuitions at the community hall in Rotary Nagar. She has been widowed for more than a year. Her children, who study at St. Joseph’s Matriculation School in Triplicane, are her only hope for a more comfortable life.

“I want them to live in a better place, in a bigger house, and be able to afford more things,” she says. Selvi’s hopes reflect the dreams shared by thousands of slum dwellers, of a peaceful life in a good locality without having to struggle for basic amenities.

Located off Radhakrishnan Salai, near Citi Centre, is a lane that leads to the slum along Buckingham Canal in Triplicane. The area was adopted by Rotary Club of Madras 65 years ago. The slum now has a piped water and a sewage system, concrete houses and black-topped roads, but the lifestyle of the residents has not changed.

“We still live in single-room houses. Government has given us free TVs and provides food at subsidised rates,” says R Kanchana, who also grew up in the area. “Even though Rotary Club supports us, we’ve always been daily wage workers.” She says most men here have a drinking problem and are given to gambling.

Efforts by the government and NGOs to improve the living conditions of slum dwellers by empowering the women, who were offered courses to become tailors or beauticians in the ‘90s, came to nought. “Both programmes were conducted for three years, but the women did not get jobs or start any business after completing the courses,” says Sai Srujan, a member of Rotary Club.

He says most families are keen to provide their children with a proper education. “They know that education is probably the only way to a better life,” he adds.

Sociologists say education is the key for children from poor families to realise their dreams. “We believe that slum children imparted with appropriate skills will perform as well as children from affluent families,” says Chandra Vishwanathan, treasurer at AID India.

The Times of India, October 8, 2012 -children-concrete-houses

Posted on: October 8, 2012


Fewer Girls, Poor Infrastructure Plague Rajasthan Schools

By Saurabh Sharma

JAIPUR: At a time when the state is “focussed” to restructure the skewed sex ratio and improve its image as far as the girl child is concerned, a recent survey puts the state in more bad light.

Decrease in the enrollment of girl students, absence of separate toilets for them, non-existent computer education facilities and poorly maintained records are plaguing schools in the state.

The post enumeration survey (PES), an independent study conducted by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics for the academic session 2010-11, has brought these anomalies to the fore. The study was conducted taking three districts Churu, Dungarpur and Jhalawar as a sample covering around 401 schools.

However in some indicators Rajasthan’s performance is praiseworthy.

The mid-day meal is one such area where state performs fairly good.

The data revealed that, the total number of girls enrolled per 1,000 boys, in the three districts has decreased from 857 in 2009-10 to 538 in 2010-11. The percentage decrease, in girls’ enrollment per 1,000 boys, is highest in Churu district at 37.28%.

The overall enrollments of students have also seen a dip with total enrollment upto upper primary in 2010-11 was 43,141 compared to 44,392 in the year 2009-10 for the same category.

The study also reflects the poor status of separate toilet facilities for the girls. Out of the total sample of 401 schools, 25% government and 29% private schools lacks girls’ toilets.

The scenario is even worse in regard to separate toilets for staff. Total 78% government and 59% private schools do not have separate toilet facility for teachers and other staff in the sample survey.

Dismal state of computer education in the state also remains an area of major concern. From the survey it was emerged that in 82% government schools computer education is not available. Private schools too are not lagging behind with 58% among the surveyed have no computer facility for the students. The post enumeration survey is an independent survey that replicates a census. The survey and the census results are then compared and results are used to measure the coverage and errors in content of the census. PES for the year 2010-11 was conducted by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics and its result were compared with the data of district information system for education (DISE).

The numbers of the schools taken in the survey were 5% of sample of the schools covered by DISE.

The DISE and PES data have been compared on some indicators of school management, enrollment, pupil teacher ratio and availability of certain facilities. It is observed that there is a significant variation between the two sets of data.

The Times of India, October 3, 2012 mputer-education-enrolment

Posted on: October 3, 2012


Human Rights Education Shows Its Potential

By Gustavo Capdevila

GENEVA, Sep 20 2012 (IPS) – The impact of human rights education, a rising star, is highlighted in a short documentary sponsored by United Nations experts and civil society.

The short film presented Wednesday, “A Path to Dignity – The Power of Human Rights Education”, shows how human rights teaching and training can bring about major transformations in victims and potential perpetrators of abuses.

Dalit (formerly “untouchable”) children in India, a Turkish woman abused by her husband since she was married off as an adolescent, and police in the southern Australian state of Victoria describe in the film how their lives changed radically thanks to human rights education.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says at the start of the film that “Full realisation of human rights requires all human beings to be aware of their and other people’s rights and of the means to ensure their protection.”

“The message of this DVD says that everything starts from a single person,” Kimiaki Kawai, programme director for Peace Affairs at Soka Gakkai International (SGI), told IPS.

“If the single person stands strongly, determined, then something can happen with an impact to the society. So, in that sense education is something like empowerment – to giving knowledge, giving understanding, to sharing wisdom. So that somebody can stand firm to contribute to society,” said Kawai

The film was produced by the SGI, a Japan-based lay Buddhist movement, the international movement Human Rights Education Associates, and Pillay’s office.

Dalit children received training on human rights from non-governmental organisations in India, which enabled them to fight and overcome some of the most degrading effects of the discrimination that they suffer as a result of the Hindu caste system.

And the woman in eastern Turkey, who was hunted by her own family after she decided to leave her abusive husband, found comprehension and support from an association of Turkish women, and eventually managed to free herself from her arranged marriage and change her name.

Police in the Australian state of Victoria, meanwhile, were given human rights training from their superiors and from specialised organisations, which brought down the number of complaints of human rights abuses committed in the course of their policing work.

“A Path…” brings hope that human rights education can be deepened and expanded, Christian Guillermet-Fernández, Costa Rica’s representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council, told IPS.

At the presentation of the short film in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the diplomat pointed out that his country had abolished its army in the 1940s and then decided to invest in education and health the funds that previously went to the military.

Hedwig Jöhl, a representative of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, said a country without an army is a good example for human rights education.

Guillermet-Fernández said the 28-minute documentary, directed by filmmaker and international relief worker Ellen Bruno, was a tool that could have a lot of impact in the field of human rights.

“But human rights education must still overcome many challenges,” the Costa Rican diplomat said. “We need to be innovative, creative and do things like this (film).”

Furthermore, he said, governments and civil society must work to keep the question of human rights education on the agenda of international organisations, in the Human Rights Council but also in the work of the General Assembly – two of the highest-level U.N. bodies.

One of the biggest challenges is to educate national authorities and politicians, Guillermet-Fernández said.

Kawai stressed that “Education is not a process to give some knowledge to other people. Interaction should be the core of education…Education is to inspire somebody to think by themselves and stand up, which also influences me.”

Referring to the case of the young Turkish woman shown in the film, who expressed a discrepancy between traditions and human rights values, Kawai told IPS that such differences could be overcome with “balance.”

“And balance comes from talks, not from silence,” he said. Differences of opinion arise in interactions between people, and “how can we solve the differences, the discrepancies…dialogue should come first, not violence,” he underlined.

Inter Press Service News Agency, September 20, 2012

Posted on: September 20, 2012


Skills shortage stalls training of 67,000 Maharashtra teachers

By Max de Lotbinière

A partnership between the British Council and the government of Maharashtra state in India to improve the English language teaching skills of 67,000 primary school teachers has hit a skills shortage, according to local press reports.

The English Language Initiative for Primary Schools (Elips) was launched in June with a budget of $616,000 with the aim of recruiting up to 920 “master trainers” to deliver skills to at least one teacher in every state school over two years.

According to the DNA news agency in Mumbai, by last month the British Council and its partner Maharashtra State Council for Education Research and Technology (Scert) were struggling to find sufficient numbers of trainers with adequate English language skills.

Scert director NK Jarad told DNA that barely 600 candidates had made it to the first round of selection.

English language lessons have been compulsory in the state’s schools for over a decade but analysis by the British Council indicated that standards of English learning have been falling. Elips is intended to target training at teachers in lower primary classes.

Swati Popat Vats, a member of the English core committee for Elips, told DNA: ‘’Even among teachers, there are not many who can speak fluent English, especially in rural areas. There are many qualified teachers in the urban areas, but they were not willing to train others in rural areas.’’

The Guardian, September 18, 2012

Posted on: September 18, 2012


PM Manmohan Singh emphasizes on need to improve education quality

Vindicating that education provides the skills and competencies essential for economic development of the country, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said a well-educated population is necessary for the economic and social progress of any country.

The Prime minister while addressing the awardee teachers on the eve of Teachers’ Day said education provides the citizens with empowerment and confidence to actively participate in the political processes imparting values that nurture social cohesion and national unity.

“It is for this reason that our government has substantially increased public spending on education since 2004-05. Education expenditure as a percentage of our GDP has increased from 3.3 percent in 2004-05 to 4 percent in 2011-12. Per capita public expenditure on education has increased from Rs. 888 in 2004-05 to Rs. 2,985 in 2011-12,” he added.

Dr. Singh said the improved outlays have helped in a massive expansion of the educational infrastructure and sanction of additional posts of teachers on a large scale. He added India has made remarkable progress in enhancing the reach of the education in the country.

” Enrolment of children in primary schools has now reached near-universal levels. The gender gap in elementary education has declined. Simultaneously, there is a significant reduction in socio-economic inequalities in access to education and a narrowing of the gap between SCs/STs, minorities and other social groups,” he added.

Dr. Singh, however, expressed concern over the poor levels of learning among students.

“Therefore, as we move ahead we need a clear shift in our strategy from a focus on inputs, access and enrolment to what goes on in the classroom and the school. We need to set up transparent and reliable systems for tracking attendance of children in a truly meaningful way,” said Dr. Singh.

“At the same time, we need to put in place a system of continuous assessment of the benefit our children are getting from their education. Participation of the community and parents would be essential in this process, so that they can be satisfied with the quality of teaching,” he added.

Laying emphasis on the role of teachers in endeavouring quality education for the children, Dr. Singh said: “Teachers have to be an integral part of policy-making, governance and management, as also of day-to-day instructional strategies and decision making. The empowerment of teachers that includes real opportunity for them to share policy perspectives and decision-making will have to be the key component of the educational reform process.”

“As teachers, we look to you to guide the children of our country in their quest for knowledge and truth. Through you, we aspire to build in our children a commitment to the values of democracy, and the values of equality, social justice, freedom, secularism, and respect for human dignity,” he added.

Dr. Singh further appealed all the teachers to develop a strong thought the independency among the children and the capacity for taking carefully considered decisions.

“Through you, our children should also develop a sensitivity to the well-being and feelings of others and also the ability to work and participate in the processes of social and economic change,” he added.

The Prime Minister said teachers are key to the future of a nation and referred them as the nation builders.

“I once again congratulate you for contributing so handsomely to the processes of nation building. I have full confidence that with teachers like you the future of our country is safe and bright. I wish all teachers in the country a very meaningful and satisfying engagement with our children,” said Dr. Singh.

“I am delighted to be with you on the eve of Teachers’ Day. I join you all in paying homage to the great teacher, philosopher and educationist of our time Dr. Radhakrishnan, whose birth anniversary is celebrated as Teachers’ Day every year,” he added

-With inputs from ANI

Newstrack India, September 4, 2012 to-improve-education-quality.html

Posted on: September 4, 2012


Free computer training for students

By Kevin Mendonsa

MYSORE: Here is an institute which is dedicated to provide computer education to poor students from rural areas free of cost.

For the past five years, Adithya Institute of Management and Information Technology, under the Gyan Vahini programme, has been giving training to students who cannot afford the fee.

This year’s course, which is designed for first year pre-university students, will commence from August 16. Classes will be held thrice a week.

‘’Many computer students find the CBSE syllabus tough. To instill confidence among them and make them understand their subjects well, this course is offered free of cost. Every year, the institute is providing training to 100 students especially for those who do not have computer knowledge,’’ says K A Anitha Venkatesh, principal and CEO, Adithya Institute of Management and Information Technology.

The three-month course costs around Rs 5,000 in other institutes.

Students are offered coaching in multimedia, accounting, Tally, DTP, internet, web designing, data entry, animation and C programming.

The institute has a tie-up with neighbouring colleges to create awareness on the free training.

“I topped C programming in the class as the training made me capable of doing it,” says Bhagyashree K, a final year degree student of MCS, SDM college.

She underwent free training three years ago in the institute.

Chandrika N , a BBM graduate, says as her father passed away, her family had a tough time financing her studies.

‘’When I joined the institute, I had no knowledge about computer. The institute helped me pursue my dream,’’ she adds.

For details about the course, call: 2485510.

Times of India, August 6, 2012 r-education-computer-students

Posted on: August 6, 2012


Bangalore school allegedly gave Dalit children haircuts to ‘separate’ them

By Maya Sharma

Are good schools only for the rich? Will children only get a high quality education if their parents can afford to pay for it? The Right to Education Act aims to give all children a fair chance of a good education. Private schools, except minority schools, are required to reserve 25% of their seats for children from economically disadvantaged families. The Act, expectedly has been resisted by several schools who possibly see a reduction in fee collection.

In Karnataka, some schools who are part of the Karnataka Unaided Schools Management have shut down from Monday for a week – saying there is lack of clarity in how the Act is to be implemented.

And now an allegation from parents at a school in Bangalore that their children, admitted to a private school under the Act, are facing discrimination of a very hurtful kind.

This year parents from families in Nandini Layout admitted their children to a private school, Oxford School, in their neighbourhood that was earlier well out of their financial reach – in the hope of getting them a better education. But the parents allege there was a difference in the way their children were treated.

One mother Reshma, whose daughter switched from a government school to Oxford this year says, “They don’t teach them – they make them sit in the last row . They don’t ask them anything. They don’t give them homework. They are doing this because they are from a poor family.”

Her point of view is backed by her neighbour, also called Reshma, whose son attends the same school. She says, “From the last one month, they haven’t taught them anything. They keep their books separately. They don’t give attendance and make them sit in the last bench. When we ask them why, they tell us, you should ask in the parents’ meeting.”

Some of the children have had locks cut out of their hair. A Dalit organisation alleges this was done by the school to mark out children who were admitted under the Right to Education quota.

Narayan of the Dalit Samrajya Stapana Samiti says it is clear discrimination.

“In Oxford School they have cut the hair, kept the bags and books separately so that the children should not mix with the others,” he alleges.

The children themselves say their hair was cut by their classmate.

There was no response from the school itself – currently closed for a week in protest against what some school managements say is confusion over the RTE act.

But the charges of discrimination is serious enough for the state education department to investigate things more closely. We met an official at the school who had come to find out more, only to find the school locked. He said he would try to meet school administrators and then would report to his superior officers.

Is the Right to Education regardless of socio-economic standing still just a dream for India?

NDTV, July 18, 2012 o-separate-them-244787

Posted on: July 18, 2012


95% schools don’t comply with RTE guidelines

Over two years after the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) was notified by the central government , more than 95% of schools in the country do not comply with its guidelines, a study by an NGO has found. Data compiled by RTE Forum with inputs from its members
from across the country points out that only one out of 10 schools in 2010-11 had drinking water facilities, while two out of every five schools lacked a functional toilet.

The report accessed by IANS also shows lack of training facilities for teachers, adversely affecting the quality of primary education in India.

Nearly 36% of all sanctioned posts of teachers in the country are lying vacant. Of this, the national capital alone accounts for 21,000 vacancies, while 1,000 posts are vacant in Odisha, RTE Forum’s report says.

The guidelines under the RTE act specify that schools “established, owned, controlled or substantially funded by the government or local authorities” must ensure that the vacancy of teachers “shall not exceed 10% of the total sanctioned strength”.

The study also found teachers in Haryana being engaged in non-teaching activities like construction work or working as contractors in the mid-day meal programme.

“No teacher shall be deployed for any non-educational purpose other than the decennial population census, disaster relief duties or duties relating to elections to the local authority or the state legislature or parliament,” according to the guidelines of the RTE act.

The data shows that the national average for pupil to teacher ratio is worryingly high at 1:80, against the prescribed ratio of 1:30 for primary and 1:35 for upper primary level under the act.

“There is an urgent need to mobilise people who can demand that the government do its part in implementing the act. As a civil society organisation, we will create awareness among people and monitor the implementation of the act,” convener of RTE Forum Ambarish Rai said.

Hindustan Times, July 9, 2012 s/Article1-885589.aspx

Posted on: July 9, 2012


Why there’s an alarming rash of suicides among Dalit students

By Stephanie Nolen

The sharply truncated life of Anil Meena was marked by a ferocious tenacity.

From the mud house in rural Rajasthan, where he grew up in a family of subsistence farmers, he made his way first to school and then to the top of his class. He studied with monomaniacal intensity and passed the entrance exam to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the most prestigious of India’s professional colleges – an achievement almost unfathomable in the largely illiterate aboriginal community from which he came.

At AIIMS, he battled through classes where he couldn’t understand a word of the English being spoken and pored over a dictionary to get through textbooks. When an arbitrary rule change – that just happened to affect only students from backgrounds such as his – cost him a passing grade in a crucial exam, he tried repeatedly to meet his course director, his friends say. He sat outside the man’s office for four or five hours at a time for a week.

But Mr. Meena had come up against something his intelligence and perseverance could not overcome: Students of his kind are not welcome at AIIMS, no more than they are at other prestigious Indian universities. They rarely graduate. No one was prepared to help him succeed.

On March 3, Mr. Meena hung himself from the fan in his small dormitory room. He was 22.

His death was a crippling blow to his family, a shock to his friends and an ugly blemish for AIIMS. It was also the 20th reported suicide in four years at an elite Indian educational institution by a student who was either aboriginal or Dalit – the people from the bottom of the Hindu caste system, once known as untouchables.

The suicides have emerged as a subject for fierce debate. Following the promise of the new India, these students are hyper-achievers from the grimmest of backgrounds, who made it into the schools that produce engineers, doctors and business leaders who are sought the world over.

But when they get there, they are often isolated, humiliated and discriminated against. They are told overtly by their professors that they will never make it to graduation. Yet many feel they cannot drop out – families and communities are invested in their success, and many have taken huge loans.

Some, trapped in this dilemma, have chosen to end their lives.

In the very places that produce the innovators who are supposed to shape its future, India is dogged by the darkest forces from its past.

“It’s very pervasive and very invisible,” says Shweta Barge, who monitors educational discrimination for the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights. From a Dalit community herself, Ms. Barge often tried to keep her identity cloaked as she managed to earn a postgraduate degree. “Those [Hindu] ideas of purity and pollution exist across every stream, in every school. It gets to hard-core Indian values: It’s not just about where you reach; it’s about where you came from.”

The suicides have occurred at 16 different institutions, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and at the universities of Hyderabad and Bangalore.

In 2008, a final-year Dalit medical student at Government Medical College in Chandigarh in the Punjab hung himself in the college library; Jaspreet Singh left a note in his pocket describing how the head of his department told him repeatedly to his face that he would never, ever be permitted to be a doctor.

That professor had failed him several times in course work, although Mr. Singh had never before had anything but top marks. After his death, an external committee re-evaluated his exams and found that he should have passed. He was awarded his degree posthumously.

On March 3, 2010, exactly two years before Mr. Meena’s death, another young aboriginal man killed himself at AIIMS. Bal Mukund Bharti, 25, was just weeks away from earning his degree, something unprecedented in his community in Madhya Pradesh.

His parents, who’d taken out massive loans to support him, told a team from of investigators from the Insight Foundation, which works to support Dalit and aboriginal students, that he repeatedly complained of harassment from his professors.

He said that one often complained, “I don’t know where they come from, these Dalits and [aboriginals], getting here without studying anything.”

Yet Mr. Bharti was, in fact, brilliant. He had scored eighth among hundreds of thousands of students nationwide in the intensely competitive engineering entrance exam – he passed up the seat to become a doctor instead. AIIMS carried out no investigation and says he had psychological problems.

And this April, an MBA student hanged herself at a private college in Gurgaon, the new technology and industry hub on the edge of Delhi. Dana Sangma was aboriginal, from Meghalaya state in India’s remote northeast.

The university quickly released the explanation that she was distraught after being caught cheating on an exam – but her uncle, her home state’s chief minister, who had personally enrolled his niece at the high-priced school, called that claim preposterous.

He registered a complaint with the National Commission of Schedule Castes and Tribes, saying she had been driven to suicide by harassment at the college.

India has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, especially in the age group of college students. But these deaths stand out because of the clear connection, often described in suicide notes, with the discrimination the victim endured.

The issue goes to the heart of a story that India wants to tell about itself these days: that traditional guarantees of privilege – wealth and caste – are losing power in favour of merit.

But if that is at all true, it is thanks largely to the program of “reservations” – a form of affirmative action under which all publicly funded educational institutions must reserve about 40 per cent of their seats for aboriginal (or “tribal”), Dalit and “other backward caste” students.

A percentage of jobs in government institutions are also reserved, as are political seats in municipal government.

The education reservations were set out in the Indian constitution adopted in 1950, although it was decades before there was more than a handful of such students who even reached the point of applying, and uproars from dominant-caste students and their families were a consistent drag on the program’s full implementation until recently.

Today, there is a politically incorrect tint to complaining about reservations, but many dominant-caste students still resent them.

India is desperately short of higher-education institutions. The Ministry of Human Resource Development says the country needs at least 1,500 more – 520,000 students wrote the entrance exam for the IIT this year, competing for fewer than 10,000 spots.

A degree from one of the elite engineering or medical institutes is a ticket to a life of comfort. But the competition for seats, combined with the reservations, means the admission cutoff – the minimum grade for acceptance – for non-reserved students hovers in the high 90s.

Dalit students are perceived as taking seats that should go to students who scored higher. Indeed, there are thoughtful critics, such as the leading New Delhi public intellectual Gucharan Das, who point out that inequality in India today does not always follow traditional lines – some in the “other backward caste” groups are prospering, but they pressed to be included among the reservations, while other poor people are left out.

But those are the exceptions. Anoop Kumar, who runs the Insight Foundation, says most of the backlash against reservations comes from an (often deliberate) misunderstanding of the principle. “People are defining merit strictly in terms of marks in the entrance exam, and that conveniently discounts all the other factors affecting the performance of the students,” he says.

“So a student from an urban, upper-caste, upper-class background who has both parents literate and studied at a an elite, private [English-language] school is considered more ‘meritorious’ when he or she has 85-per-cent marks, than a reservation-category student who goes to a terrible government school in [Hindi] and has no one in the family who is literate but still scores 75-per-cent marks.”

Yet their dominant-caste peers still grouse that the reserved-category students would never make it if they had to compete on an open field. Their professors often share that view: As Ms. Barge points out, the faculty in these prestigious institutes is overwhelming made up of people from the dominant castes, since only a single generation of Dalits really has had the chance for a professional education.

“They have this idea rooted in their psyche that tribal and Dalit students ‘don’t have the merit and can’t match up to us,’ ” says Ajita Rao, a Dalit medical doctor who studies discrimination in professional education. “That’s the hidden thing.”

Dr. Rao says that resentment, hostility and isolation – rooted in the idea that Dalits and aboriginals are “unclean” – permeates college life. They are shunned in dining halls and dorms and mocked in classes, ever reminded of their marginalization.

This has a debilitating effect on students who always thought of themselves as achievers.

“You go for [an oral examination] and they ask you your name and where you are from, and you say Meena from Rajasthan – they say, ‘ Oh, okay,’ ” says Jagram Meena, 20, who was a close friend of Anil Meena’s (but no relation – their surname is given to all in their caste group).

He says such exchanges have a direct effect on his performance: “You feel dehumanized and you forget everything you want to say. They are saying, ‘Okay, you are a reservation-category student and you don’t know anything.’ You’re marked from that moment.”

In 2006, a series of protests by Dalit and aboriginal students at AIIMS complaining of discrimination prompted the central government to appoint Sukhadeo Thorat, a prominent academic from a Dalit background, to investigate.

His three-person commission found dorms segregated by caste, students subjected to open hostility by their teachers and even physical attacks by dominant-caste students on those they considered inferior.

The Thorat report said these students consistently reported having less time with oral examiners, and being asked their surname in unnecessary situations. It faulted AIIMS for failing to provided language support to students coming from Hindi- language schools and for relying heavily on subjective assessments rather than more objective tests.

Also, in a grim foreshadowing of the experience Anil Meena would describe a few years later – the report criticized cases of sudden rule changes that had a disproportionate impact on reserved-category students.

In Mr. Meena’s case, the weight given to one assessment was changed to 50 from 25 per cent, seemingly arbitrarily, after the exam had been conducted. This caused him and many other students to fail – almost all reservation students, said Mahinder Meena, an intern at AIIMS (also from the Rajasthani aboriginal community) who helped organize protests after the suicide. The Thorat report recorded a pattern of such incidents.

AIIMS’s administration rejected the report “in totality,” calling it biased, although under public pressure it did increase its language-learning support.

In the wake of Anil Meena’s death, the administration acknowledges only that he had been depressed about failing an exam and was struggling with English.

“This was a tragic event,” says Rakesh Yadav, AIIMS’s subdean for academic issues. “No institution wants that.”

The school did offer financial compensation to Mr. Meena’s parents. But Dr. Yadav rejects the idea that the university’s conduct had any role. “It is absolutely not true. All support any [medical] student needs is provided – the faculty and the administration is always there to help out.”

Dr. Yadav will agree that the area of language support might be insufficient – that an hour a day might not be enough to get a unilingual Hindi student through a medical curriculum. “It’s basically a language problem.”

Beyond that, however, he says there was “no discrimination” in AIIMS. “If you say faculty are doing the discrimination – it’s too much. … They assess students based on marks.”

As for bias, he adds, there are processes to prevent any individual professor from vindictively undermining a student, but clinical skills, for example, must by definition be evaluated in person: “To modify it to be 100 per cent objective – it’s not possible.”

However, after Anil Meena’s death, AIIMS contacted Prof. Thorat again and asked him to return to the school to investigate, which he considers a major improvement over the hostile reception to his last inquiry.

“This time there is an attitude to do something about the problem they face,” he says. “I have a feeling that because of these two suicides … it shook the faculty and teachers.”

Jagram Meena hopes so. He points out that his friend Anil placed 400th in the all-India medical entrance exam, far higher than most of the general-category students at AIIMS. They both certainly struggled in their first year – they had to consult the dictionary 10 times to read a single page of their textbooks – but Anil was managing.

He played Bollywood music loudly to relax, or joined friends – mostly from his caste group – for cricket in the courtyard. His father and brother were taking loans to send him fees every month. He was coping, Jagram says, until the rules kept shifting.

“We’re in no way lower than the general-category students,” says Jagram, sipping tea at the canteen outside the student dorm.

“One day,” he says – when the public schools that prepare Dalit and aboriginal kids are as good as everyone else’s – “we’ll all be one category.”

But Mahinder Meena cuts him off, demanding to know how change like that could come as long as it’s almost impossible for Dalit students to succeed.

“Our fear about his suicide,” Mahinder says, “is that it will change nothing.”

The Globe and Mail, July 7, 2012 ides-among-dalit-students/article4396677/?page=all

Posted on: July 7, 2012


Language exodus reshapes India’s schools

By Maseeh Rahman

Dinesh Mandal, an illiterate villager from Bihar, came to India’s capital city nearly three decades ago with a dream – to make sure that, unlike him, his son Umesh would get a proper education.

To make that possible, Mandal took up work in a home in the heart of Delhi, in an area built by the colonial British and popularly known after its chief planner and architect Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens’s Delhi not only has extensive quarters for household staff attached to its sprawling government bungalows; it also provides schools where the families of the poor working for top politicians and officials can get their children educated.

But Mandal’s dream has remained unfulfilled. His son Umesh failed to graduate from his local school, where he was taught in Hindi, one of India’s official languages. Though he finds work intermittently, he is at present unemployed. As a result, he has moved to a satellite settlement 50km away.

Mandal, though, hasn’t given up on wanting to educate his progeny – only the language has changed. He has kept back his three grandchildren – a boy and two girls – with him in his one-room tenement, and is now convinced that educating them in a school with English as the medium of instruction will emancipate his family.

“If my son Umesh had studied in an English-medium school, our life would’ve been different today,” said Mandal. “Now my grandson is doing that, and I’m doing all I can to ensure my two granddaughters also get admitted to an English-medium school.”

More and more across India, parents are forsaking educating their kids in their mother tongue in favour of English. Despite warnings from educationists that a child’s cognitive development is affected by early schooling in an unfamiliar language, there has been an exponential increase during the last decade in English-medium schools in the country.

The latest data compiled by the National University of Education, Planning and Administration (NUEPA) shows that the number of children studying in English-medium schools has increased by a staggering 274% between 2003 and 2011, to over 20 million students.

“In village after village you will see signboards for English schools which are no more than private shops,” said Anil Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. “They’re capitalising on the huge aspirations of people wanting to improve themselves economically. The desire for education is no more an argument.”

After two decades of rapid economic growth, landing employment has also become equated with knowing English, especially due to the software boom and the expansion of the service sector. Corporates, though, still complain of poor skills among job seekers.

“There are lots of schools, but no trained teachers,” said Gupta. “The issue is not of quality going down, but of no quality to begin with.”

But it’s not just private entrepreneurs who are riding the “educate your child in English” wave. In response to lobbying from parents, even provincial governments are abandoning their diehard commitment to the language of the region and increasingly supporting English. Votaries of regional tongues are now seen as impractical language chauvinists, while more informed debate on the importance of language in child development is lost in the din of politics.

Goa is a good example. Last year the authorities reversed the state’s language policy and announced that even English-medium schools would get grants. The Catholic church runs a majority of Goa’s government-aided schools, and it switched to English overnight. Opponents of the move have gone to court, but people dismiss regional language advocates as hypocrites since contrary to their public stand, they too send their children to English-medium schools.

“Indian politicians basically want to keep us docile and backward,” said English language activist Savio Lopes. “If my child is schooled in [Goa’s official language] Konkani, how will he find a job outside the state, when English is the nation’s link language?”

Educationists argue the real problem is the method of teaching, since a child can become proficient in English if it is taught properly even as a second language. India’s poorly skilled teachers are a dilemma – only 9% of 730,000 teachers from private and government schools, for instance, passed a recent national eligibility test.

When the standard of teaching in a regional language school is good, the difference becomes apparent. “In India, teaching of languages is generally very outdated, no matter which language,” said Anita Rampal, professor of education at Delhi University. “But a study we did in Delhi showed that students who began learning in Hindi for the first five years in a school that taught language well showed the ability later to think independently and write creatively in both Hindi and English.”

NUEPA vice-chancellor R Govinda pointed out that many high achievers, such as former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao, did elementary schooling in a regional language, and later became proficient in other languages. Govinda himself went to a Kannada-medium school.

“The current perception that English will resolve everything is not correct,” he said. “States should invest more in developing good English teaching, and evolve a comprehensive language policy.”

Cultural theorist Rita Kothari pointed out that English and regional languages contain different “storehouses of knowledge”, both of which are essential for a student. English provides a wealth of modern ideas and historical understanding. “But without regional languages, the richness of the landscape will get flattened,” she said.

The real challenge is to raise standards in all languages, and produce good teachers. “The best don’t want to teach,” said Paul Gunashekar of the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad. “In my university, we don’t feel the focus should be on English alone at the expense of the mother tongue and regional languages.”

The Guardian, May 15, 2012

Posted on: May 15, 2012


Will India’s Right to Education Act Upset Stereotypes?

By Rupa Subramanya

Whether anyone likes it or not, classrooms in India are set to become more diverse.

The always heated debate over affirmative action in India has entered a new chapter with the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the controversial Right to Education Act. This requires private, non-minority schools that don’t receive government support to reserve 25% of their seats for underprivileged kids. Conceivably, the son or daughter of an investment banker might be sat at a school desk next to the son or daughter of their domestic help.

Will this new frontier of affirmative action in India actually help those whom it’s targeting?

The answer is likely to depend on whether underprivileged kids are quickly integrated and socialized into the mainstream culture of the classroom. It crucially depends on whether they see themselves as “insiders” rather than “outsiders,” a point forcefully made by economists George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton in their award winning book “Identity Economics.” Research from the U.S. strongly suggests that kids’ educational performance is closely correlated to how they perceive themselves in relation to the educational aspirations of those around them.

An important piece of experimental research by economists Karla Hoff and Priyanka Pandey using Indian data found that kids from historically disadvantaged castes performed just as well as upper caste kids in aptitude tests such as solving puzzles and mazes. Vitally, this equal performance happened only when caste identity was not revealed to their peers in the experiment. In a mixed group, when the researchers revealed everyone’s caste identity, the disadvantaged kids performed fully 20% worse than their peers.

This study strongly suggests that the performance of disadvantaged children who have been thrust into private schools under the new law will depend on whether they’re able to manage the psychological challenges of interacting at close quarters in an unfamiliar and potentially hostile environment.

An underprivileged child’s background might plausibly be kept hidden in a laboratory experiment, but it’s almost impossible to believe this could be replicated in the real world. Underprivileged kids will almost certainly be dressed differently, have less fancy accoutrements, and will probably lack the self-confidence that accompanies wealth and privilege in India, as in most other places. This is likely to reinforce what psychologists call the “stereotype threat,” whereby being reminded of belonging to an underprivileged group creates cognitive challenges and worsens performance. In fact, this is exactly the mechanism that was at work in the Hoff-Pandey study.

So how do you go about boosting the self-confidence of a disadvantaged kid?

While the Right to Education Act is too recent to have spawned any scientific research, there is new evidence on how affirmative action can help undo stereotypes in another important arena, namely gender.

In 1993, a law in India created reservation for women in leadership positions in village councils. A study by economists Lori Beaman, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande and Petia Topalova in the prestigious journal Science looked at the effects of this law. In many states, at every election one third of village councils were picked randomly to have their top spot reserved for a woman.

The researchers sent out survey teams to almost 500 villages in 2006 and 2007, covering those that had the top spot in the local council reserved for women as well as those without reservation. Mainly, they were trying to figure out if the presence of high profile women in the community shaped the aspirations of people in those villages.

What they found is astonishing.

Compared to villages that had never had reservation, the gender gap in aspirations — as measured by household surveys — narrowed by 25% for parents and 32% for adolescents in those villages with reservation for two successive election cycles. The gain was so great that it wiped out the gender gap in aspiration among adolescents: young women now had the same aspirations as young men in terms of future education and job market plans. Importantly, the study showed that these changed aspirations are purely subjective, in the sense that they don’t reflect an objective improvement in educational and labor market opportunities for women in the areas surveyed.

At work is the impact of women leaders in a community operating as role models for younger women as well as their parents. What’s more, this benefit to society, in terms of reducing stereotyping, is over and above the direct positive impact on women themselves being able to turn to others in positions of power at the local level. There’s already evidence to show that village councils led by women are more responsive to women’s needs.

The bottom line here is the importance of the role model effect. Merely by being there, quite apart from anything they may have actually done, the presence of women as leaders of village councils managed to help overturn centuries of ingrained gender stereotypes that had held women back and denied them leadership positions in the community.

For the Right to Education Act to succeed, it’s almost certain that a similar role model effect will have to be inculcated in the private schools in which the underprivileged kids now find themselves. And it will need to change the mindsets of parents as well as kids. This is the crucial challenge that will be involved in translating the good news findings from affirmative action in gender to something comparable through the Right to Education Act. It’s a tall order. Sure, you can put the kids together in a classroom, but do you really expect to see their parents hanging out?

The experience from the existing system of reservation in higher education doesn’t offer a great deal of comfort. While systematic evidence is hard to come by, there’s ample anecdotal evidence of students entering prestigious institutions under affirmative action and finding it difficult to hack it once there, due in many cases to bullying and peer pressure directly related to their underprivileged background. Stories of students cracking under pressure, and even committing suicide, aren’t uncommon. Might we now see this play out in the schools?

The Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2012 on-act-upset-stereotypes/?mod=google_news_blog

Posted on: May 2, 2012


Enrolled in school, working at tea stall

By Mahesh Langa

Ketan Chauhan, 11, is enrolled at School No. 1-2 in Ahmedabad’s Asarwa neighbourhood. But he is more likely to be found working at a nearby tea stall than studying in the classroom. The Class 5 student routinely goes to school, marks his attendance, and then walks out to work at the tea stall
till 8pm. His wages: R50 a day.

Chauhan is one of the 97% Indian children between 6 and 14 years of age who are officially registered in schools — a statistic that suggests that the country is on the cusp of providing schooling to every child — but remain oblivious to education.

A cocktail of legal loopholes, poor implementation of laws and economics threatens to make the struggle to end child labour and send every child to school under the Right to Education Act a lot harder than the statistics suggest.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that India has 45 million children of school-going age who are working instead of attending school. Thousands more are reported missing each year. And like Chauhan, not all such students enrolled in schools are in class.

The child labour law explicitly bars children from working at dhabas, restaurants and tea stalls. But poor enforcement in most cities means that ‘chhotu’ remains almost ubiquitous at roadside eateries — a problem the government recognised long back but which it has struggled to set right.

For Chauhan, the reason for working is economic. “I work because my parents are poor,” he says bluntly when asked why he is skipping classes. Many children in Ahmedabad city’s industrial areas of Vatva, Vastral and Naroda skip school because their parents prefer that they work in factories instead, says Archana Verma, co-founder of Swayam, an NGO that works with street children.

The economics of young, cheap labour also makes it attractive to hire children in violation of the law. The 13-year-old domestic help, who was rescued from an apartment in Delhi’s Dwarka last week, should have been in school under the RTE Act. As in the case of those working at tea stalls, domestic child labour is also illegal. But the adolescent girl was allegedly beaten up by her employers, paid nothing, and was left behind, locked up in the house when the doctor couple went for a vacation abroad. The challenge is even more complex in rural India, because of contradictions between different laws that play out there.

The RTE Act insists on free and compulsory education for every child between 6 and 14 years of age. But the law against child labour allows children to work in agriculture and related occupations.

Children of migrant workers, especially construction workers who need to keep moving, also face a challenge. Migrant families from Rajasthan shift each year to work in northern Gujarat’s cotton fields, and their children invariably end up missing school, according to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, which has also advised the government to ban agricultural child labour.

The inability to ensure that students enrolled with it attend the school is also a reflection of the challenges schools face in maintaining their relevance for students. India’s severe teacher shortage means that students often go to school but find no teachers.

Chauhan puts it very simply. “I go to school, but sometimes I feel it’s a waste of time,” he says. “There is nothing happening there.”

Hindustan Times, April 25, 2012 ticle1-846158.aspx

Posted on: April 25, 2012


Rough Road to School

By Charu Sudan Kasturi

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the nation on the morning of April 1, 2010, he became the first premier to do so for the launch of any law in independent India.

Speaking on the Right to Education (RTE) Act, one of the biggest early achievements of the subsequently scam-scarred government, the Prime Minister recalled his own childhood.

“I was born into a family of modest means,” he said. “In my childhood, I had to walk a long distance to go to school. I read under the dim light of a kerosene lamp.”

Two generations after Singh went to school, India has a school enrolment rate of 97%, many more schools, an education policy that places children at its centre, and unprecedented public investment in the sector. However, for many children from poor families, the challenges of accessing education remain remarkably similar to those the Prime Minister faced, statistics show.

Girls fare worse than boys on all indicators of education access; scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students still face discrimination, and Muslim students are less likely to complete elementary schooling than their counterparts from other communities.

Infrastructure gaps and a shortage of teachers continue to plague many schools. Students who struggle are often left to fend for themselves. Child labour remains a scourge. Why students drop out

Relatively newer challenges have also emerged — concerns that start with an unregulated pre-school system and linger through formal school in the form of questions over whether students are actually learning what they should be.

The RTE Act has come into effect at a time when India, with 65% of its population under the age of 35, enjoys a significant demographic edge over the ageing economies of Japan, China and Western countries.

Coupled with never-before investments made in higher education over the past decade, the law — which aims to provide at least basic schooling to every child between six and 14 — could help India reap the benefits of this advantage, the National Knowledge Commission said in its reports.

The Act set six months — by September 31, 2010 — as the deadline for all schools to meet a strict teacher-pupil ratio, three years — by March 31, 2013 — for infrastructure requirements at schools, and five years — by March 31, 2015 — for ensuring that all teachers are qualified.

The deadline for the first marker of progress, on teacher-student ratios, was missed. And with less than a year to go for March 31, 2013, statistics show that India may well miss the deadline for schools to meet infrastructure requirements.

The year-long HT initiative will highlight the myriad challenges facing India’s school education system, before looking at initiatives — both public and private — that have helped tackle these challenges. Finally, we will look at what needs to be done, going ahead.

The transformative power of education needs no debate, but what it needs to do for an Indian child from a modest economic background was perhaps best articulated by the Prime Minister himself when he launched the RTE Act two years ago.

“I am what I am today because of education,” he said.

Hindustan Times, April 18, 2012 o-school/Article1-842252.aspx

Posted on: April 18, 2012


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