Sarva Siksha Abhiyan- Mission, Issues and Innovations

Many a times, I feel like agreeing to one opinion of a rebel friend of mine. He thought Nehru’s five year plans would have concentrated only on education at least for few decades.

Perhaps Sharva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was a path correction. It came a little late with a mission for attaining universalisation of elementary minimum education; but it was always better late than never. The SSA had all the potentials to change the destiny of India in fastest way. 2005 was the deadline for putting 3.4 crore children in the 6-14 age group in school. And by 2010, every child would have received eight years of education. Resources could not have been the problem with the Centre, states, and many external agencies like World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID) and European Commission participating. However, it didn’t happen, and as usual the excuses were many. And that appears in its performance report.

40 per cent of the eligible age group (13.6 million) are still out of school, the drop-out rate across the country is 39 per cent, 75,884 schools in the country have a single teacher and another 6,647 have no teacher at all, and the country is short of at least 50,000 upper primary schools and 31,648 habitations do not have school

And one of the major reasons is the indifference of the politician masters for whom SSA is hardly a necessity. Rs 100 cr sanctioned under the drive got diverted to other activities or schemes. 2,369 non-existent schools got Rs 50 lakh in Jharkhand alone. Rs 100 cr worth of textbooks distributed to non-eligible children in MP, Chhattisgarh & Assam. The teacher-student ratio in Bihar remained t 1:93 because of no recruitment perhaps for years. Only 3.29 lakh have been recruited so far ageist the sanctioned 5.96 lakh posts of teachers. Most states have gone for the less-qualified temporary Shiksha Karmi as a teacher, perhaps because of some selfish motives of bureaucrats in collusion with politicians. Add to that some more bad news. 5 per cent of the schools run in kutcha premises, 33 per cent schools do not have toilets and nearly 50,000 schools do not even have a blackboard.

But there is some good news too. Almost allover India, some unique innovative methods to achieve universalisation of elementary education are under experimentation with quite a significant success.
Fishing Boat schools of Andhra Pradesh in East Godavari district were introduced for migrated fishermen’s children who didn’t have any one to look after them, once the parents sailed into the sea with their boats for fishing. The family had little scope of education for the children. 310 children were taken out on another boat. Started for joyrides, it became play school with teaching tools and play kits. After some months, all but 57 joined regular schools.

West Bengal has come out with Rabindra Mukta Vidyalaya for children who could not go to upper primary schools. Gujarat has come out with some unique innovations for girls’ education that are: Diwali camp, Ujasbhani and Dikari Mare Bhanvu Chhe (Daughter, I want to study). While Diwali camp gave girls an opportunity for all round personality development and empowering them, Dikari Mare aims to take help of daughters to teach illiterate mothers.

UP came out with Meena Manch geared towards increasing enrolment, and retention of girl child. From a kit of 13 books, stories are discussed linking them with issues arising in the girl’s daily life. Haryana provides free bicycles to girl who does not have a school in her own village with the rider that she has to appear for the class VIII exam to fully own the cycle. And panchayats who achieve 100% girl enrolment are given a prize of Rs 1 lakh. Jagruthi Shibhira, Karnataka provides awareness about pitfalls of early marriage, low status of women. Pratibha Karanji, Karnataka provides platform for girls to showcase thelatent talent such as singing, and dancing

With all the shortcomings, the story of SSA programme will be presented in a world meet in Manila. The Department for International Development, World Bank and Asian Development Bank has selected SSA as a case study. It is a rare honour to government -run SSA. The agencies consider the programme as “an excellent example of a government-led, highly effective development partnership in elementary education that is enabling millions of previously excluded children to go to school.”

But, India has many miles to go. You feel really shocked to hear when some crazy ones from higher castes don’t allow the underprivileged children to study in the school meant also for them. Perhaps, one the SSA will also solve this social cynicism too.

PS: India near full enrolment at primary school level

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