Farooque Shaikh enrolls out-of-school children in Jharkhand
Vinobajee Gautam and Anupam Srivastava
A school enrolment drive of massive proportions: “School Chalein Hum – Abhiyan 2006” (Let’s go to School Campaign 2006) was launched by the Government of Jharkhand to get all out-of-school children into school. As an “ambassador” of the campaign, popular Bollywood artist Farooque Shaikh, was invited to Ranchi to launch the campaign. He personally enrolled more than 30 children over two days and gave a major boost to the campaign. He was joined by the UNICEF State Representative for Bihar and Jharkhand, Bijaya Rajbhandari. The campaign started on April 24 and ended on April 28.
Among the children who stood waiting to be enrolled was eight-year old Prem Prakash Kispotta, from an urban area of Ranchi, Jharkhand’s capital. Living a few yards from the Middle School, Prem Prakash never got to go to school. Farooque Shaikh enrolled him by writing his name in the school register; Prem took his first step in an already delayed start in getting an education. He is among the .38 million children in the 6-14 age group, out of school.
Farooque’s appeal to parents on the urgency of education was nothing less than passionate: “Whatever your problems – lack of money, not enough food - send your child to school. If you don’t educate your children, the world of opportunity tomorrow will be for someone else, not your child,” he urged parents.
Children enrolled included those who were of school-going age, and had even studied till a certain level, but then dropped out. There were older children who had been out of school for many years. Priyanka Hoon, 15, had out of school for many years but was there on the day of enrolment. “I will definitely go to school from now on,” she said. “Promise she will,” said Mr. Shaikh to her father, who nodded his head vigorously, then said, “I liked your film Noori a lot.”
On the final day of his visit, Mr. Shaikh called on Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda and told him about what he liked. “I like the idea of bridge courses. This helps children cover the years they lost during their difficulty,” he said. Another scheme he was happy to learn of was giving bicycles to girls when they passed out of Class VII. “It gives them the incentive to stay on and graduate” he said.
Thanking him for his involvement in the campaign, Mr. Rajbhandari said he Mr. Shaikh’s visit had been able to get the hard work of the education department noticed.
In 2002, the Government of India passed a bill in Parliament to universalize elementary education. As a result, every Indian child between the ages of 6 and 14 has the fundamental right to receive a minimum of eight years of elementary education. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) or Education for All is the national programme that is based on this legislation. The program aims to bring all children into elementary school, close gender and social gaps, and improve the quality of education by 2010.