India Inc: Educate and Skill Rural India

Everyone, be they politicians or administrators or corporate honchos, talk of inclusive growth and equity at all platforms. I wonder if they are really in know of the real problems and interested to do something. Rural India is getting lagged behind. And the lack of quality schools and effective education system are the main reasons for it. Unlike the urban India, the rural India has failed to attract any significant private investment in education but for some experimental corporate initiatives.

Education in rural India is dependent mostly on government schools. Most of the states are trying to set up primary and secondary schools in every village, but the quality of education is still suspect. It is nowhere near what urban India is getting. Many urban centres are getting private investment in education and some of the high-end schools can be compared with the best anywhere.
The rural government schools lack the basic infrastructure such as toilets and drinking water and essential facilities, be it electricity, computer and Internet, library, and even sports for modern education. The quality teachers, who are sincere and motivated enough to learn and experiment in the art of teaching and imparting knowledge, are just missing. Spirited ones are rare in teaching community today.

Most of the schools are just a building with few rooms with a blackboard on which you can’t write eligibly. Kids still sit on floor. There is hardly any security provision to keep the equipment and accessories for aiding education safely. Teachers don’t stay in the campus and walk or cycle from distant villages. Their regular attendance is doubtful. There is hardly any agency to monitor their work and performance regularly as required for effective output. There is neither any effective incentive for good work nor penalty for not performing.

Most of the villages are not having school for carrying on the education up to class XII. And most of the families can’t afford going to a town for further schooling. Naturally those who can coach are also missing in the villages, as they don’t find it paying. Most of the parents can’t afford it. Many who can afford don’t want to do that as they expect it to be free. And who are the losers? Mostly, they constitute the lowest strata of the society for whom the government or the politicians have coined a new word BPL(Below Poverty Line).

Will the logics above be good enough to draw the attention of India Inc. that are critical of mandatory CSR to do something for just one aspect of the lives of these unfortunate rural children that can empower and light up their future. And perhaps in just ten years India Inc could not only cut down on this expenditure but can also get the returns on its investment too, if it starts today with a mission to educate and skill the rural India.

Let the corporate India take educating and skilling rural India as one-point programme. They will not only be helping inclusive growth but also build an India that they all can take pride in. In 2009, 53 million dropped out because their families couldn’t afford it or the conditions of classrooms and the arrogance of the teachers providing them with little real learning, couldn’t hold them. And most of them were the underprivileged ones.

There are some examples of the industrial and business houses doing some excellent work in rural India. Sunil Mittal group is one. Bharti Foundation has about 236 schools that are providing free quality education to underprivileged children in remote villages across India with particular focus on the girl child. There are others too. HCL’s Shiv Nadar has also initiated a similar project for rural India. But why can’t Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata, Birla and the whole lot of their peers join Mittal to have a private school in each village of the country to provide quality education and skill to the future generation. India needs around six lakh quality schools in villages. Corporate India must think of taking over the existing government schools in the villages. Many states may agree for it.

Unless the rural India and particularly those from the deprived class- dalits, SC, ST, join the race for a place in higher education, India can’t improve its standard of higher education with targeted gross enrollment ratio of around 30 from the present level of 10-14. Even IITs and IIMs will not keep on getting the best of talents in the country without so many from rural India not in competition.

There can’t be any better CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) than this project of educating rural India. The project will automatically take care of other things.

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