Primary school years
Among one of the leading priorities for the UNICEF worldwide is its commitment to ensure that every girl and every boy completes a quality, primary-school education.
The number of children attending school has gone up many-fold since the time of India’s
But several problems persist.
The environment in which India’s children live, learn and grow frustrates their attempts to have equal access to education.
Among the many contributing factors is the quality of the physical space that children inhabit.
Of India’s 700,000 rural schools, only one in six have toilets deterring children especially girls from going to school, and if enrolled, in remaining there.
In addition are cultural factors: continuing discrimination against the girl child plays a crucial role in creating resistance around sending girls to school.
The persistence of class and caste differences and the prevalence of child labour further complicate this scenario, obstructing both girls and boys from having equal opportunities to education.
Even though the rate of school attendance is better than ever before with more and more children between the ages of 6 and 14 enrolling at schools, the education system is inadequately developed - wracked by a shortage of resources, schools, classrooms and teachers.
Often, due to the resulting, poor quality of teaching, many children drop out before completing five years of primary school and many of those who stay on, learn little.
The government of India is constitutionally committed to ensuring the right of every child to basic education.
Government efforts have been intensified in recent years following the launch of various programmes including the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) in 1992, the Minimum Levels of Learning (MLL) initiative and more recently the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (or the National Programme for Universal Elementary Education).
UNICEF strategy is woven around three inter-linked themes: access, quality and equity in basic education.
It supports initiatives that help provide equal opportunities for children from disadvantaged communities including the urban poor and working children.
It implements a ‘quality package’ across 14 states that aims at improving the quality of curricula and classroom environment.
And, it supports alternative learning strategies including bridging courses for adolescent girls, who are out of school.