Today morning I went to Sector 50 Park instead of the usual one in Sector40 of Noida. As suggested, I go out a little late at around 9AM in winter because I am heart patient. It is comfortable temperature wise by that time. The walking track is about 700 metres across the periphery of the park. Plantations have still not grown to its heights. On one side there is one school for tiny kids and a huge residential housing complex is coming up nearby. On my first round, I found two boys coming to go their school well loaded with bagful books. I talked with them and encouraged them to work hard and study seriously, as that will make them own houses like one their parents are helping to build. The elder one told they have come from village recently. The younger was crying. Perhaps he was not willing to go to school. The older one also on his own told me that he is dumb. I requested him to take care of the young one more lovingly.
I moved on. When I was approaching the other side of the park, I found four kids well dressed in school uniforms with sweaters playing in the ground. I could guess they have bunked off the school. I moved on in that round. But in my next round I went to them to find out why are they playing and talked with them to find out why have they not gone to their school. Their parents must be thinking that they are in school, but they were wasting their time here. I talked with them for a while to tell them why they must go to school. They didn’t answer to my query first, but ultimately they picked up their heavy school bags and started moving out. I threatened to come to their shanties to meet their parents and complain. On my next round, I found them again outside the boundary wall, but they were not going to school. After I threatened again, they moved towards their school. I am sure they will not go to school, but play in some different place. And there will be hundreds and thousands of such kids.
How can this situation be avoided? How can the kids be made interested to go to school regularly? Are the teachers making the teaching interesting enough? One incentive for attracting them has been the mid day meal. However, I don’t know if it is strong enough incentive. How the parents can be convinced that schooling is necessary? How can they start taking interest in school activities? Many questions troubled me. Unfortunately, the parents in shanties are hardly interested. My wife got daughters of our maid admitted, but they never went to school. My wife keeps on telling Anandoo, the guard next door to send his son to school but he never did it. The government is doing its best to have universal education through different education schemes. The most publicized is the Sarb Shiksha Aviyaan. But still unless the parents of such children that I met in the park today get interested in educating their children, and teachers go out of the conventional way to make the teaching interesting enough and relation close to parental level, the scheme can’t succeed. Perhaps the country needs a scheme to educate parents more than that for the children. These parents must not think that the responsibility of education is that of the government.
Every now and then some volunteers visit our residences to find out if there is any child for polio drops in our knowledge. Perhaps the same volunteers can also enquire about the children that are not going to school. Our Resident welfare Associations or other similar associations can also have some drive to help universal education. Doctors can have some camps to tell the kids about the necessity of sanitation and hygiene. The senior people in locality can visit the schools and provide some moral boosting advices. On the whole, the society will have to take this responsibility at least for one generation to make the universal education drive a success.
It was interesting to read in an article by Vijay Kelkar, former finance secretary that ‘the total spending of the government of India on education, summing across Centre and states, divided by the number of children between ages 4 and 15, works out to roughly Rs 4000 per child per year. Any one in education profession will agree that it is feasible to get good quality schooling if you are willing to pay fees of Rs 4000 per child per year.
It can’t be just a government initiative.