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RTE in place, but no water or toilets

Government run schools, Right to Education

NEW DELHI: Little seems to have changed in the city since the Right to Education was implemented exactly two years ago. A large number of schools still lack basic facilities promised under the new constitutional right. A study by Delhi RTE Forum-an umbrella body of 20 non-profit organizations-says denial of admission and absence of basic facilities in schools pose a hurdle in proper implementation of the RTE. The forum had surveyed 207 schools in south Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar and different areas of east Delhi, including Trilokpuri and Kalyanpuri, in November last year. It found that only 5% of the schools had provision for clean drinking water and as many as 30% of the schools did not have proper toilets and playgrounds.

“Most of those schools lacked basic facilities promised under RTE. We spoke to nearly 1,200 students from 32 schools as part of a focused group discussion. Many of them said they did not go to school as it didn’t help them in any way,” said Saurabh Sharma, a member of the forum. The survey also found that 22% of the schools did not have proper fencing or boundary walls, and 30% of them did not have separate toilets for boys and girls. Sharma said most schools did not have a School Management Committee (SMC) as the government notified the rules only in November 2011.

All of the schools surveyed are run either by MCD or Delhi government. The forum also surveyed 5,006 households selected randomly in various parts of east Delhi in June last year while the admissions for 2011-12 session in the Delhi government schools were still on. The forum found that 3.3% of the children surveyed did not go to school. Nearly 7% of the children out of school had special needs. “Though RTE ensures equal opportunities for children with special needs, the school authorities are completely unaware of their needs. As a result, many drop out or not get enrolled at all,” the survey report says.

The Times of India, 02 April 2012


Record sum allocated to school education

Government run schools, Reservation of seats, Right to Education, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan

Free uniform and notebooks; compulsory for schools to reserve 25% seats for children from poor sections.

The State Budget gives a major boost to school education, with the government earmarking a record sum of Rs.14,553 crore for it — the highest ever allocation made to any department in Tamil Nadu. The school education department will also focus on increasing enrolments and arresting drop-out rates, Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam told the Assembly on Monday.

This year’s Budget gives a thrust to the implementation of initiatives as part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), in addition to implementation of the Right to Education Act.

The allocation ought to be seen in the context of the RTE Act that places huge emphasis on improving school infrastructure and quality of education. Interestingly, the Budget speech had a special reference to the clause on schools reserving 25 per cent of their seats at entry level to children from economically disadvantaged sections. “It has now been made mandatory for all schools to follow this rule which has been notified by the State government,” the Finance Minister said.

Of the total Rs. 2,000 crore set aside for SSA for the year 2012-13, the State will chip in with Rs. 700 crore, with the Centre providing the remaining amount. This means an increase of over Rs.100 crore as compared to the outlay for 2011-12. This, potentially, could speed up implementation of the RTE Act in the State, for the School Education Department sees the SSA as a vehicle to take the State closer to RTE goals. In regard to RMSA, which received nearly Rs. 1070 crore for 2011-12, the State has sought adequate funding from the Centre to help improve secondary education in Tamil Nadu.

While no specific points pertaining to Samacheer Kalvi or other pedagogical interventions were made, a host of other schemes were announced. A sum of Rs. 150 crore will go towards providing free notebooks to all students in classes I to X going to government and government-aided schools.

As was promised in the election manifesto, the government will distribute four sets of uniforms to students every year, beginning 2012-13. Boys from class VI upward will receive full pants instead of half pants and girls will receive salwar-kameez. The government will also commence supply of a pair of footwear to all students from classes I to X, a scheme targeting 81 lakh children. Students will also receive special educational kits this financial year. This includes school bags, geometry boxes, colour pencils and atlases. As a follow up to an announcement made earlier, special cash incentives will be given to students in classes X, XI and XII. As per the initiative, which seeks to arrest drop out rates particularly in higher classes, students in classes X and XI will have Rs.1,500 deposited in their names, and those in class XII will have Rs. 2,000 deposited. A total of Rs. 313 crore was invested in students’ names in the current year and a sum of Rs. 366.7 crore will be invested in the coming financial year, benefiting 21.36 lakh students.

The Hindu, 27 March 2012

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Government to ensure all children get primary education by 2015

Access to education, Government run schools

JAIPUR: The state education department has come up with a roadmap to ensure that by 2015 all children will be able to complete a full course on primary education.

Principal secretary (education) Ashok Sampatram on Sunday presented a futuristic plan in this regard on the last day of the two-day symposium on ‘Millennium Development Goals in 12th Plan of Rajasthan: Integrated and Futuristic Approach’ organized by state planning board in collaboration with UNICEF, Rajasthan.

He briefed on the challenges coming in way of increasing gross enrollment ratio, tracking down dropouts and removing bottlenecks in the Right to Education Act-2010 and shared possible solutions. Sampatram informed that the government will recruit over 78,000 teachers for both primary and secondary level before the next session to ensure that every government school will have a proper student-teacher ratio according to the Act. The principal secretary admitted that underutilization of teachers and their uneven deployment are causing a problem.

“The skewed deployment of teachers at inter-district, intra-district and intra-block levels is the biggest bottleneck for government in executing its plans,” Sampatram said. He further said cities like Jodhpur has excess number of teachers and whereas towns like Shergarh has scarcity of teachers because teachers are hesitant to go there.

Data released by the education department suggested that parents continue to shun government schools as 81.24 lakh students enrolled in government schools in 2007-08 has been reduced to 72.03 lakh in 2011-12. The gap has been bridged by private schools which have taken away the share of government schools. The rise of private schools both in number and enrolment of students from 41.23 lakh in 2007-08 to 51.21 lakh in 2011-12 is posing a threat on existence of government schools.

The Times of India, 19 March 2012


Sibal’s RTE Act is just not working

Government run schools, Learning Achievements, Right to Education

15-year old Indian students, who were put through a two-hour international test for the first time, stood second last among 73 countries, only beating Kyrgyzstan when tested on their reading, math and science abilities. In contrast, 25 per cent of the 15-year olds in Shanghai demonstrated advanced mathematical and thinking skills to solve complex problems. The desperate situation calls for a new Right to Education Act.

or is happening, in contrast to what should have happened if the Act were implemented. RTEA says that admissions in private schools should be conducted only through lotteries or some equivalent random process of selection to avoid discrimination.

According to the New Indian Express, Hyderabad, managements of virtually all private schools (with the few exceptions of non-profit-making private schools) in Hyderabad are flouting this norm and conducting tests for both parents and children, now that it is admission time and some 1.5 lakh parents are seeking seats for their little ones in the city’s so-called ‘better’ private schools. These schools also demand capitation fees, which the parents are ready to shell out ‘if the school caters to their requirement’.

Random selection

Let me quote two instances reported in NIEH. In the first instance, the irate parent says, “My child could not make it to a prestigious school last year as they demanded a sum of Rs.1 lakh after assessing my husband’s annual income. We decided to get her admitted to a nearby school. They charged Rs. 30,000 per year. This year we plan to go in for admission to the second standard in the same school”.

In the second instance, the parent says, “My son has good communication skills but the interactive session was hardly anything beyond the few set questions on numbers and colours, apart from daily routine. I feel that the purpose was to estimate the amount me and my husband were willing to spend for a seat. It was humiliating, to say the least. We had little choice but to shell out Rs.65,000 for admission to pre-primary, as it is the only good school close to Madhapur,” where they lived.

The irony is that the schools defend their above action openly, making statements such as, “The lottery system or that of first-come-first-served does not take into account the family” or “School is about grooming and not about Chemistry and Physics” (make out what you wish of that!).

Management of one school says, “We look at parenting skills of the family and, for the child, we look at normal development, hand-eye coordination and basic etiquette such as saying ‘thank you’, during interactive session”.

Worse is the fact that the parents, who can afford to send their children to expensive private schools, too, are in favour of having their children screened. A majority of them are ‘perturbed by the system of lottery instead of written examination for testing’. “And how is it fair to the child who is better?”, they ask.

Parents, who send their children to expensive private schools are also worried about the children coming in contact with the children of poor families if they are admitted according to the 25 per cent quota prescribed for them by RTI.

“What if our children pick up bad habits from them? Is it fair that we pay a large sum of money for admission to a premier institution, and they avail the service for free ?”, asks a parent, whose daughter studies in an international school.

“I send my son to a prestigious private school. Where will children from economically weaker sections fit in, in such an atmosphere ? Such a move will dilute standards”, says another parent. And in Khammam, where a survey was carried out recently, 76 private schools are running without a permit.

Government schools

Let us now look at the Government schools. The RTEA was supposedly designed to make Government schools as good as the better private schools, so that even the affluent would want to send their children there as they would be free. After all, the Central Schools run by the Government of India are amongst the best in the country, with children of all social strata going there, as long as their parents are in a transferable Government job.

Sixty-four per cent of the schools in Andhra Pradesh do not have toilets. So, the girls either do not go to school or learn to hold their thirst. The RTEA emphasised construction of toilets in every school but, perhaps, not one toilet has been added in the last few years in the existing government schools after the RTEA was passed.

Leave aside toilets, virtually all government schools (excepting Central Schools) lack even basic facilities like chairs, benches, drinking water, a good (not dilapidated) building, enough rooms and teachers. No wonder a school building in the old part of Hyderabad city collapsed in July last, injuring five students. No surprise, then, that many schools have few students.

Even the poor cut down every other expense – including that on basic necessities – to send their children to the mushrooming private schools, which have a shine and charge high fees but may not be imparting any better education than the unsatisfactory government schools.

Some crowded areas in cities like Hyderabad do not have enough number of even bad government schools to take care of all the children in the area.

Quality of education

Let us now look at the products of the government schools. Some 71 per cent of the students of Class VIII in the rural schools of Andhra Pradesh cannot divide. Some 42 per cent of them cannot subtract. And 55 per cent cannot even read a Class II Text Book. These are some of the findings reported in the Annual Status of Education Report 2011.

The same report says that less than a third of class III students in rural Indian schools can solve simple two-digit subtraction problems. There has also been an alarming decline in mathematical skills, in the number of children in Class V that are able to read Class II books, and in attendance, over the last year.

At the international level, 15-year old Indian students, who were put for the first time on a global stage, stood only second last, only beating Kyrgyzstan when tested on their reading, math and science abilities. India thus ranked second last among 73 countries that participated in the programme for international student assessment conducted annually by the OECD to evaluate education systems world-wide.

The survey was based on a two-hour test that half a million students were put through. By contrast, ‘more than one quarter of Shanghai’s 15-year old demonstrated advanced mathematical and thinking skills to solve complex problems compared to an OECD average of just three percent. And we want to be counted in the same league’ as China!

It is abundantly clear that we need a new Right to Education Act, which would be implementable and in the interest of all the citizens of the country. The new Act must recognise that if we wish every child in the country to grow up to be a fully responsible citizen, there is no alternative to de facto de-commercialising school education and resorting to a common (neighbourhood) school system, where parents (irrespective of their social status or circumstances of birth) living in a particular locality will have an obligation to send their children to a particular neighbourhood school.

It is only when children of the affluent and privileged go to a government school that there would be enough pressure on the authorities concerned to improve the school in terms of facilities, teachers and standards, as has happened in the Central Schools.

Further, education up to class XII must be free and compulsory as is the case in most other countries. The tragedy is we – the ‘ruling class’ – do not want every child in the country to have sufficient quality education for, in that case, there will be no one left for us to exploit. ‘Where shall we, then, get our household servants from?’

The Tribune, 18 March 2012


Education sector: Qaim admits public sector has not achieved academic targets

Government run schools

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has said that the following the footprints of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, PPP government was giving top priority to education sector and has increased 100 per cent annual budget of Education Department to have qualitative educational facilities to the poor people at their door steps.

Addressing the 7th Foundation Day of Sargodhian Spirit Trust Public School Rashidabad (SSTPSR), Tando Allahyar at its auditorium on Saturday, the Sindh Chief Minister said that though government was endeavouring more but the role of private sector in improvement in education can not be avoided.

He said that it has been realised that academic targets, achieved by the private educational institutions have not attained by the public sector.
The Sindh Chief Minister said that it is now imperative for us to encourage the private sector along with institutions in public sector.

He called upon the private sector to come forward and invest in education sector for having standard education facilities to the people of Sindh and assured that Sindh government would patronise such a standard educational institutions.
Qaim said that it was also matter of fact that we are living in such a society where feudal lords were main hurdle especially in girls education.

He said that instead of that the PPP government has taken bold steps and was spending billions of rupees, only to provide incentives to the girls’ students.

He said that the most important factor of any educational institution was its teaching faculty and those having qualitative teaching faculty can produce talented youth force.
He said that secret of success behind the private educational institutions was talented teaching faculty and its spirit for the cause.

Lauding the services rendered by Sargodhian Spirit Trust for promotion of education and especially establishing a standard educational institution at backward areas like Tando Allahyar, the Sindh Chief Minister said that it was great service of the nation.
He said that his government has always encouraged to the institutions, who are contributing to people of Sindh or nation in positive sense like SSTPSR.

He said that instead of financial crunch, due to natural disasters in 2010 and 2011 in the shape of flash flood and heavy rains respectively, by which we had looked after millions of people with spending of rupees in billion, we feel pleasure to provide grant of Rs 25 million for future development of SSTPSR and added that such type of support will continue in future as well.
The Sindh Chief Minister also presented the shields, medals and certificates to the students and members of teaching faculty on account of their best performance.

Earlier, the Principal Sargodian Spirit Trust Public School Rashidabad Abdul Mujeeb while giving welcome address said that the SSTPSR was striving hard to provide quality education and 99 per cent result of its students in last four academic years was a proof of its good performance.

Besides student of the school Mohammad Hasil had got only medal for Sindh in National Games last year.
The Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah gave away the Academic Trophy 2011 to Gulzar Hussain and the Trophy to Mohammad Hasil for getting Silver Middle in National Games while house of the year Falcon Trophy were giving to Bhittai House.

He also gave away the Medals and Certificates to the teachers for their best performance.

Business Recorder, 26 February 2012

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Let demand determine education in India

Edupreneurship, For-profit education, Government run schools

Madhav Chavan, CEO | Pratham Education Foundation

The Right to Education Act aims to provide free and compulsory education of good quality to all children between 6 and 14 years of age. Between 2004, when the education cess was imposed, and 2010, when the RTE Act came into force, rural Indian school enrolment increased from about 93.4% to 96% but school attendance has remained low at a national average of 75%. Northern states such as Rajasthan, UP, Bihar lag way below this average while Himachal, Punjab, and the southern states have consistently shown an attendance of about 90%.
Going to school is first a family habit. In many states it has become a social habit and in several states it has not. I suspect that sending a child to school or college is as much because the parents want them to learn as to keep them engaged away from home in care of an institution.
Keeping children compulsorily in school is also a policy strategy to keep them safe from child labour, and years of schooling are also correlated with many developmental parameters. But is schooling well correlated with formal-learning? A child who attends regularly learns more.
A school that functions every day with teachers engaged in teaching work results in better learning. This is well known, but relative. On an absolute scale, OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 provides another nail in the coffin after other surveys, which measure different parameters differently to arrive at the same conclusion of dismal quality of learning everywhere.
News media have highlighted the fact that among the 74 PISA 2009 participants, two Indian states are only above Kyrgyzstan. But after testing children who are still in school at the age of 15-16, the modal level of reading literacy among these Indian children is two sublevels below the lowest level on a scale of one to six. In maths literacy, nearly 60% children are below the lowest possible level on a scale of one to six.
To add insult to injury, PISA footnotes say the sampling conducted by government’s own NCERT was not up to PISA standards. It is like failing the dope test after coming last but one. Indian children are not dumb, clearly, and let us not jump to blame the teachers.
What PISA indicates is that we have never set standards of learning that are measurable, textbook-independent and oriented towards skills of reading, problem-solving, thinking, expressing and so on. We need to reorient the system. We should set stage-wise goals and a timeframe to achieve these goals. Governments are not working with any sense of urgency and do not wish to set measurable achievement goals.
In the meantime, people equate good quality education with private schools. Over the last seven years the enrolment in private schools in Standard 1-4 in diverse states such as UP and Tamil Nadu has doubled to nearly 45% and 33% respectively. In Kerala, an educationally advanced state, nearly 65% rural children go to private schools. As parental incomes and education rise, this proportion will go on increasing unless the governments put a ban on private schools.
RTE effectively is poised to do that because schools that do not comply with prescribed norms will have to be shut down. If the norms are followed, the tuition fees of the socalled ‘affordable’ schools will be anything but ‘affordable.’
According to Accountability Initiative, a non-profit that tracks the quality and efficiency of government services, the estimated national annual recurring perchild cost of schooling, without taking into account assets and mid-day meals, is about `6,300. In advanced states and metros, this is easily double. The government knows how to make education expensive. Does it know how to make it effective?
The government has recently started a Teacher Eligibility Test and defined the entry level preparedness of teachers in some ways independent of their school and college education.
Most professional courses have already made school certification and university certification more or less redundant. Similarly, it is time that industry and business stop asking for 10th, 12th, or graduation certificates from applicants for entrylevel jobs. Instead, the industry can create and support text-book independent Employment Eligibility Tests at different levels regardless of the number of years the applicant has spent in school as long as she/he is above 18.
This can contribute to creation of a pull factor for improved quality by setting standards. There is a need for industry and business to create a pull-factor to drive the quality of education. Education is too important to be left to the government alone.

The Morung Express, 19 February 2012

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SoBo’s dark secret

Access to education, Child Labour, Government run schools

South Mumbai’s tony A Ward might be the most posh locality in the city, where the rich and famous live, but as many as 2,699 children between three and 16 years do not have access to schools. Many of these kids also work to support their families

South Mumbai’s tony A Ward is probably the most posh neighbourhood in the city, but scratch a little and its dark underbelly will come spilling out.

An ongoing survey has revealed that nearly 2,699 children in the age group of 3 and 16 years in the locality do not attend schools, and an approximate number of 215 within the group suffer from some form of disability. Many of these children also work to support their families.

This when the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2010 aims to ensure that all children in the age group of 6 to14 years exercise their fundamental right to education.

According to the findings of Shiksha Sankalp, an action based research, a project under the aegis of ADAPT (Able Disabled All People Together), co-funded by BMZ (federal ministry of economic corporation), Germany and CBM (Christian Blind Mission) reveal that there exists structural gaps in the implementation of the Act.

According to Sathi Alur, Honorary Advisor and Member of Governing body, ADAPT, “To make the Right to Education a reality many components at the ground level need to be looked into to make the entire Act a success.

India is the best country in the world for making social policy on paper. What we do not do is translate that intention into action. Our sample findings have revealed this.” A door-to-door census was undertaken by the group to find out the number of disabled children who do not have access to education.

“With no reliable statistics on the number of disabled children who do not go to school, we undertook an extensive census of all kids in the age group of 6 to14 years, which has brought an unbelievable figure of both disabled and able children who are still deprived of basic education,” said Dr Mithu Alur, founder of ADAPT.

According to the findings, out of the 2,699 students (between 3 to 16 years of age) who do not go to school, 1,270 are male. “Under the Right to Education Act every child, able or disabled, has the right to study in the school next door for free. The state government is bound to make funding available for the same.

The Act makes it mandatory for every school to have 25 per cent reservation for disabled children and even girl students, but this is not adhered to by many schools,” Alur added.

So far, eight screening camps in ‘A’ ward area have been conducted and 335 children in Colaba have also been screened. According to Alur, the research is still ongoing. “Once the children are identified, screened and evaluated, medical and educational intervention begins,” he added.

Speaking about the need to help disabled children, Daniel Mont, a former senior economist at the World Bank, who now works on the mapping exercise for Shiksha Sankalp, said, “In a developed world we can advertise services for the disabled and people have resources to come and access those services.

But it won’t work in poorer places in India where we have to go and find them out and also study the specific barriers that are preventing the disabled from accessing the services. Our study has revealed that between the age group of 6-14 years, children without disability have a school attendance of 84 per cent, while those with disability shown attendance of only 53 per cent.

This is even more alarming when you take into account the gender of the disabled. More female disabled children are forced to remain at home to males.” When contacted, Fauzia Khan, Minister of State for school education, admitted that a lot still needs to be done for the Right to Education Act to be successful.

According to her, the state government has already prepared a master plan for the implementation of Right to Education Act. The rough master plan was also put on the official government website asking for comments and objections. They have reportedly received a number of suggestions and recommendations, which is currently under consideration.

To understand how such a large number of children in South Mumbai are being denied education, Sunday MiD Day travelled across the locality. Here are the stories of some of the children whose days are spent in their homes, instead of schools.

‘They will beat him in school’
Spastic by birth, nine year-old Dhruv Girish Mali lives with his parents Girish (34) and Chandrika (30) in Ambedkar Nagar, Cuffe Parade. Originally from Rajasthan, Dhruv’s parents claim they feared that other students would bully their son and thus they did not get him admitted to any school.

According to Chandrika, Dhruv’s mother, “I was told by villagers (in Rajasthan) that there is no school for such children and even if my son went to a regular school, the fear of his classmates beating him scared me.”

Far from receiving any education, Dhruv does not even have a birth certificate. According to the parents they were so concerned about this health that they never realised how necessary a birth certificate is.

Removed from three schools
In the case of Ayush Warekar, a nine year-old resident of Transit Camp, near Cuffe Parade police station, he was removed from two schools, after they felt that the young child suffered from autism.

According to Ayush’s mother Divya, ‘When Ayush was 3 years old, he was admitted in junior kindergarten in an English-medium school in June 2006. But within three months, the school administration decided to remove him and handed us his relieving certificate.”

He was later admitted to another school, but the class teacher complained that Ayush was inattentive and did not maintain eye-to-eye contact with him. He was then referred to a psychiatrist practicing at Masina hospital, Byculla. While the doctor felt Ayush would improve over time, he was removed from his second school too.

Child who takes care of the house
On the other hand, 10 year-old Shazada who lives at the transit camp in Cuffe Parade, dreams of becoming an engineer. He, however, instead of attending school, has to stay back at home assisting his disabled uncle Imran Ansari (30) and grandmother Saleemabi (60).

Unlike other children from his neighbourhood, Shazada’s day starts with him filling water, buying vegetables and assisting his uncle in cooking.

According to Ansari, Shazada’s parents who live in Mumbra handed the 10 year-old to him, when he was only four months old. “I am a polio-affected person and my mother can’t see or walk because of diabetes. Our only support is Shazada who takes care of us.”

‘Wait till next year’
Shirin Hussain (9) and her brother Abid (8), studied in the third and second standards respectively in Varanasi. However after the demise of their father Rashid (34) last year, they along with their mother Sameena (32) moved to Mumbai to live in their grandmother’s house.

Sameena has reportedly been trying to get her two children admitted in a local school but to no avail.. Sameena said, “The schools we approached asked me to get their final examination results and apply in 2012 after the summer vacation.

For last six months both my children who are otherwise very bright in studies, have been sitting at home, doing nothing.” Sameena approached five schools, including a local BMC-run school.

Mid Day, 19 February 2012


In school, barely literate

Government run schools, Learning Achievements, Literacy

– Status of education report ranks Jharkhand way below Bihar
Ranchi, Feb. 18: Out of 10 children in Classes I and II at the state-run schools of Jharkhand, five can’t recognise numbers and alphabets, according to Annual Status Educational Report (ASER) 2011.

Union minister for human resource development Kapil Sibal released the report in New Delhi last month. NGO Pratham, which facilitated it, gave state-wise tabulations to reveal how, after more than two years of the Right to Education Act (2009) which promised compulsory education to all children between 6 and 14 years, primary schoolchildren were actually faring in class.

According to the ASER report — the word was chosen as it means “impact” in Hindi — Jharkhand stands 11 in the list of states, much worse than Bihar at rank 4. Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states, which it deserves to, for 89 per cent of its children in Classes I and II can recognise numbers, 87.3 per cent know their alphabets and 64.5 per cent can do subtractions.

Compared to this, their peers in Jharkhand fare much worse. Only 49.2 per cent recognise alphabets, 49.7 per cent recognise numbers and a mere 41 per cent can attempt two-digit subtractions.

Between September and November, a team of Pratham officials carried out a survey in 22 districts, excluding two. Out of 22, the figures of two districts — Dhanbad and Jamtara — are yet to be compiled. In all, Pratham visited 537 village schools.

Interestingly, compared to 2010, reading and writing abilities of children had gone down in 2011. Even the dropout rate had increased by almost one to 4.7 per cent now.

Sadly, even in Class III, a third of children can’t even read Class I textbooks, and one-tenth can’t recognise numbers and alphabets. Only the brightest 5.8 per cent, a tiny majority, can do divisions.

Kumar Katyayani, convenor of Pratham (Jharkhand) squarely blamed the teachers.

“We came to the conclusion that learning levels of children had taken a nosedive mainly because teachers were seldom in class. They were either on strike or doing panchayat election and census duty,” he said.

The official also blamed the liberalism of the RTE Act to an extent.

“Most students were promoted to the next class without tests. The RTE Act specifies no child can be detained. So it affected learning,” he pointed out.

The ideal student-teacher ratio (30:1), mentioned by the RTE Act, is non-existent. The Jharkhand government had failed to recruit teachers in the primary level within six months.

Another factor that contributed to the dip in learning was the absence of school toilets for girls. “Around 23.4 per cent of schools have no separate provision for girls-only toilets, which discourages attendance,” said the Pratham official.

Another big reason was that most tribal children did not comprehend Hindi. “In Jharkhand, 61.2 per cent of children have one mother tongue and another language in school, which creates confusion,” Katyayani pointed out.

The Telegraph, 18 February 2012


‘BMC schools lack basic facilities’

Government run schools, Right to Education

Mumbai: The Right to Education Act has surely brought relief to many children, but a recent survey of the state of municipal schools in Mumbai has shed light on glaring loopholes in the implementation of the Act. Be it provision of basic infrastructure or sanitation facilities for students in civic schools, the survey found out the problems faced by a majority of BMC schools in the city.

Child Rights and You (CRY) conducted a survey on 52 BMC-run schools in the city and focused primarily on the quality of education provided to students. Library and computer facilities were missing in most of the schools and 73% of the schools didn’t even have a library in place. “While drinking water is available in schools, there were no purifiers in 55% schools and 50% of these schools didn’t even have proper toilet facilities for the children,” said Priya Rabadi, a member of CRY. She said bus facilities were not provided in 95% of these schools and there were absolutely no provisions like ramps or lifts for the physically handicapped/ challenged students.

The study pointed out a significant delay in the distribution of the 27 items that each of the students studying in a civic school is entitled to. “While a majority of civic schools don’t even get all of these 27 items, we were surprised that these 52 schools were providing children with all the items. However, if a student receives a raincoat two months after the rainy season begins, it does not serve the purpose,” Rabadi said. She said a majority of these schools are only up to Class VII, forcing students to drop out or travel far from their homes for further education.

Myeducationtimes.com, 01 February 2012


India: Mid-Day Meal Scheme Lacks Enthusiasm In Toto – Analysis

Government run schools, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Quality

The mid-day meal scheme in rural areas of Punjab has failed to achieve the goal of Universalization of Elementary Education as prescribed by the UN Millennium Development Goals (2000) and followed by Government of India. Total Enrollment of selected schools belonging to three districts, namely, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, and Gurdaspur Districts of Rural Punjab was 33085 during the base year (average of 2007 to 2009). This enrollment declined to 31667 during the current year (average of 2010-12). Almost similar decline with varying degree was noticed in all the three selected districts. However the decline in enrollment of girls’ students was slightly more than their boys’ counterpart.

Moreover, the enrollment in primary standard of the selected districts of Rural Punjab has declined by 2.35 per cent which is attributed to the bogus admission made in the base period. In Upper Primary Section, Base year Enrollment was 10583 and Current year Enrollment was 11124. However, the enrollment in the upper primary standard has shown an improvement (the percentage change in the enrollment was 105.11).

These facts are revealed from in-depth analysis under taken by Dr Gursharan Singh Kainth ICSSR Senior Fellow of Amritsar based Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies. The study is restricted to Majha region of rural areas of Punjab consisting of three districts, namely, Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran and a part of the bigger project sponsored by Indian Council of Social Sciences Research, Ministry of Human Resources Government of India under their Senior Fellowship Program.

Another salient feature of the analysis is that a lion share of the enrollment at the elementary schools was claimed by the Schedule caste (SC) and schedule tribes (ST), their percentage being 69.36 per cent. In addition 17.66 per cent belong to Other Backward Categories (OBCs). Apparently, government schools are dominated by the reserved categories students due to obvious reason. The question arises: Why the other categories parents did not sent their students to these government schools. This needs a thorough examination.

In almost all the schools there was shortage of teaching staff because of unplanned opening of elementary schools in the rural areas.

Moreover, one-fourth of the schools have only up to two teachers whereas minimum classes in these schools are five. The government has recommended the number of teachers according to the strength of students i.e. one teacher for 30 students. But these norms should be revised. These norms should be set on the basis of number of classes but not on the basis of number of students. Due to lack of teachers, there is a negative impact on the study of children. During the survey it was observed that there is no academic atmosphere in the school due to lack of teaching staff. There should be at least one teacher for every class irrespective of the student strength. There is a strong need to rationalize the opening of school.

The study further reveals total lack of enthusiasm in the implementation of the scheme in too and found lopsided functioning on various components of the schemes. Under MDM scheme the government provide food grains like wheat, rice etc. to the schools. But schools are not getting food grains on time and in short. In most of schools, there is a negative balance of food grains due to which they are unable to provide the food to children as per menu specified by government under Mid Day Meal Scheme. The government provides food grains gunny bags with specified quantity. But generally the schools get less quantity of food grains. There are many holes on the gunny bags of food grains and the quantity is less even up to 15 kgs. School authorities have to accept those gunny bags due to shortage of supply and under pressure. Quality of food grains at the initial stage was below average, but there is a continuous improvement in the quality of food grains. Moreover, there is lack of scientific storage of grains in the school premises, although some schools are provided with bins.

For storing the food grains, drums are not available in majority of the schools. Shortage of drums couple with insufficient space for storage, no proper caring of food grains etc. results into wastage of food grains. Moreover food grains also get exhausted when they are not properly stored.

Under MDM Scheme, Schools are facing the acute scarcity of funds. They do not get enough funds on time. Their funds are showing the negative balances from last many years. Generally one fourth or little more than that of the monthly expenditure is reimbursed to schools rendering school funds into negatives which cumulative balance into thousands. Even funds are delayed for months- some schools had reported negative balance of more than Rs 25 thousands and even up to Rs 50 thousand. The question again arises: How they manage the scheme?

Moreover schools with less strength are easily getting funds whereas schools with more strength are not getting any funds which have resulted into negative balances. For smooth functioning of MDM scheme, the schools authorities are investing their personal cash or borrow from the grocers.

Although cook- cum- helpers are appointed in all the schools but they are not trained. Moreover, they lack enthusiasm again due to delayed payments even up to four to six months. Moreover, they demand that their remuneration should be increased and provided on time to them.

Cooks should be appointed in schools on permanent basis. According to schools, only those cooks should be appointed in the schools that have some degree in cooking. They must be fully trained in cooking Under MDM schemes, schools are provided gas cylinders for cooking foods. Schools are facing the problem of shortage of gas cylinders.

Moreover, in most of schools the delivery of gas cylinders is not easily available. They have to cover long distance and pay more fright for getting gas cylinders. In some schools, gas cylinders have been stolen or there is a fear of stealing of gas cylinders. Due to these problems, the schools do not prefer to use gas cylinders for making food. Although the government has banned the use of cow dungs, firewood etc. due to their ill-effects but still most of schools are using this firewood and cow dung paste for making food because these are easily available. Less cost is involved in their procurement. The main disadvantage of using firewood is health problems to cooks and children.

In majority of schools, utensils are not provided to children for eating. Children bring their own utensils from their homes. Half an hour is not sufficient for distribution of food to the children. More time is involved which results into negative impact on studies. Hence there is wastage of time in washing the utensils after fooding.

Moreover, time span for fooding is very little. The government should provide utensils to schools authorities for serving the food to children. Cooking utensils are also inadequate in many schools. The most liked dish of the menu was Karri Chawal followed by Dal Chawal. Sweet rice was least liked by the students in almost all the schools and needs to be replaced with salty rice in the menu.

Alternatively curd should be provided with the sweet rice. Children insist that there must be some alteration in food menu. According to them, Rajma-chawal, Cheese, Dalia, fruits, green vegetables, Salty rice, curd etc should be added in the menu. The government should also make alteration in the food menu after considering the preferences of children or school authority may be permitted to change the menu according to local conditions.

Eurasia Review, 28 January 2012

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