Education matters, so what if policy planners are indifferent!!!


Education matters despite policy neglect!

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‘Kaju katri khao, teacher’, said the student ( will you eat cashew sweet ?),

Teacher asked, ‘from where did you get this?’ and took one piece.

‘A rich man had died today’, replied the student.

He used to work at cremation ground in Surat. And Bina Rao has been providing free tuition to about 800 such children. She will be running a library in a cloth bag for the two months of summer vacation. Children whose parents make liquor, sell vegetables, do other errands are not easy to persuade to come to class. But, without bringing them to school, even if an informal one, India will not become inclusive. It is not that policy makers are not aware. They are. But, they are also aware that if they educate all such children, then they will not get servants at their home. Till they learn to do things with their hands, the future of such disadvantaged children will remain buried in big plans of Niti Aayog. While India has a great ability to keep some things unchanged, a few things are changing. And for good.

Let me now share example of RTE [Right to Education] campaign coordinated by Ashish Ranjan, alumnus of IIMA ( + ) and Prof. Ankur Sarin and their group of outstanding volunteers. Ashish did not opt for normal corporate placement and has decided to invest his first few years in getting poor chidden in school. Normally, deadlines and milestones are fixed in the government. But, this year Mrs. Thara, the Municipal Commissioner has extended both the number of students to be admitted under RTE and also the deadline. Some of the private schools such as Diwan Ballubhai, Naryan Guru, Modern and New Age School, etc., have been very cooperative. God bless the principals and teachers of these and all other cooperating schools. As against the target of 3000 disadvantaged children, 5600 forms have already been filled up and hopefully by the next week, many more will be filled up. This is an extraordinary experiment. It may not address the major problem of making government schools more responsive but it does make a difference to the aspirations of a few thousand children who otherwise may be deprived of good quality education.

This could not have been achieved without the support of many local volunteers. Mehmoodbhai is a AMTS driver and lives in Kodhiyar Nagar. First time when Ashish and his team including ten students from IIMA went to visit this locality, Mehmoodbhai didn’t let them enter the society. They explained the purpose. After an hour of discussion, he offered to survey the households and collect the application forms. Students were not convinced and felt dejected at being denied the opportunity to meet the people. Actually, that day there were several marriages in the locality and survey would not have yielded much result. After two days, when Mehmoodbhai called up to submit the survey results, the members at RTE centre, IIMA was not very hopeful. They thought that he might have a dozen or so forms. To their surprise, he had surveyed 30 blocks and collected 127 applications from the eligible children of five years age for admission to class one. All these children have benefited from RTE. He has been doing that for the last two years. His duty ends at 3 pm. After that, his mission is to get as many children admitted to school as possible. The irony is that his own children have not benefited from the scheme. They would have needed admission in higher classes. May be some readers will realize that the schools need not restrict admissions to poor children only in class one( RTE policy needs urgent modification). May be Mehmoodbhai’s children will get a chance.

In Juhapura, Sanjeedaben works with a voluntary organisation and spends her own free time for RTE. She got 50 children admitted to private schools through RTE centre.

In Pune, Mr.Mahesh Yadav, Sparsh Balgram ( takes care of more than a dozen and half children whose parents had died of HIV and who were thrown out of village. These are children whose fate has been sealed by the policy makers and NACO because of the cracks in the vision.

Sonia Suryavanshi, Khatima, Uttrakhand had gotten children of leproy affected families in normal school several years ago. Initially parents of other children threatened to pull out their children. When two of these children topped their classes, the school principals wanted more such children. She also motivated teachers of a government school, Melaghat, Nepal border to transform their attitude towards children.

Chetan washed the face of the children of workers building stadium of AES, Ahmedabad before teaching them in the evening. When the construction was over, the children moved elsewhere. Will another Chetan await them there? Ask NITI Aayog members and if you wish, HRD minister !!

I hope some day all of these children will gain admission to IIMA and run the RTE center to bring more children into mainstream. However, if things have changed by then, then these students could help in another initiative IIMA is launching soon. A special facility will be created to provide tuition, counseling and vocational guidance to the children studying in municipal schools. Volunteers are welcome to join all these initiatives and light the lamp of hope in the lives of disadvantaged children. In the meanwhile, we have to persuade the union leaders of primary and secondary school teachers associations to mobilise their members for doing justice to their job of educating children. The politicians will have to stop using these teachers for their own vested interests and thereby make them ignore the interests of the children. Amen!

pl send your offer to support these and many other initiatives through open source content and any other concrete contribution to make future of our disadvantaged children safer, better and brighter

Mandarins in MHRD at central or state level are unlikely to go through any change of heart in near future, but will these children continue to add the ranks of street urchins?? photo: mehmood bhai, source, akshara and ashish


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place