Getting all children to school and then holding them till the end of their studies is a big problem in our country especially in rural belt. There are still many hiccups in the rural society that bind a child in various other activities or rituals to stay away from getting the basic education. There are certain pressures in varied intensity and volume in various parts of rural India. Some of these pressures like early marriage, early absorption in domestic or field work, taking care of younger siblings at home, preference of male child, dejection of female child for education, early childbirth, killing of female child before or right after birth, uncontrolled child birth that further leads poor family to more poverty and so on.
Despite all these hiccups and societal hindrances in the rural of India, there are certain lights from different areas that have started kindling in the dark. Families are being educated to set a discipline of sending their children, irrespective of their gender, to school for getting educated and finding a right path in their career rather than staying in the same starving conditions forever. And despite all these struggles we see children managing to go to school. On the school front, there is another set of issues that become discouraging for these children in welcoming them with open arms and ensure them a healthy and congenial atmosphere. Under such circumstances at home and school front how one can ensure a proper growth of a child who has to build his and country’s future.
Lack of basic amenities is the foremost issue at schools. Absence or poor conditions of toilets, drinking water, basic infrastructure, cleanliness etc. discourage children from coming to school and thus becomes a substantial factor for their increasing absence from the school. Gradually when the situation worsens further, the child drops out of the school, finally. The impact of these poor or missing conditions of water, toilets, and infrastructure etc. is more on a girl child. That is also one of the major reasons of bleak footfall of girls in rural schools for acquiring education.
With all good efforts to enhance and ensure basic amenities in rural, there has been an increase in children in these schools. ASER Center Report 2014 reflects certain facts about the impact of the positive side of these initiatives. At the same time, it also sets pointers for the improvement areas where immediate attention and focus is required. The report says 96.7 percent of children between the age group 6 to 14 are enrolled in schools in rural India. This is the sixth consecutive year when the enrolment is equal or greater than 96 percent. Though this is an encouraging part, but the serious concern is attendance and retaining of these children. On an average, the attendance is slightly above 70 percent.
The serious most concern is the decline in girl child in the age group 11 to 14 years for enrolment in school. The situation from previous years has only improved in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Elsewhere in India there is an average decline of 5 percent or more. The worse decline in this regard is in Bihar where the girl child enrolment has reduced to only 5.7 percent from its earlier year figure of 17.6 percent. 36 percent of primary schools have less than 60 percent of enrolment which is quite a big concern. A point of grave concern is that 24.4 percent of schools still don’t have drinking water available. 44.3 percent of schools still don’t have usable girl’s toilets. 34.8 percent of schools still don’t have usable toilets.
To cope up with these grim situations, a number of initiatives have been taken by Coca-Cola India, NDTV and UN-Habitat along with many other partners and have launched Support My School (SMS) campaign. The focal area of this campaign is to invigorate the negating factors in schools. Reversals in many schools have been reported in reply to these initiatives. Children numbers coming to school have started growing as a resultant. The key action points of this campaign are – Usable toilets for children, especially girls, access to drinking water for all, availability of sports facilities, Library, rainwater harvesting, environmental amenities.
So far 600 schools have been brought to this level of minimum standards. Less than 200,000 children have been able to get access to better sanitation and drinking water facilities. But at least a ray of hope has been flared. Mission 1000 will be a reality by 2017.