Harnessing the Primary Education challenge in Uttar Pradesh
93 per cent enrolment: Annual Status of Education Report
By Kulsum Mustafa
Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh (UP), the most populous state of India, has made impressive gains in primary education in the last half decade. The Annual Status of Education Report reveals that with 57 per cent literacy rate and 34 million school-going children, the state has turned its hurdles into benchmarks, ensuring that 93 per cent of children are enrolled in school. Today the state has 122,000 schools, 300,000 teachers and 100,000 para-teachers to take care of the needs of the students at primary and upper primary levels.From 1999 to 2004, as a result of UNICEF-supported social mobilization campaigns, nearly 80,000 students living in remote areas have gained access to schools and alternative learning opportunities.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) - Universal Elementary Education scheme - has been the main catalyst in recent years in spearheading this metamorphosis in education in the state. UNICEF supports SSA to ensure all children have access to quality education and complete a full course of elementary schooling
More than 25,000 out-of-school children have benefited from the “accelerated learning” approaches, which have allowed them to catch-up with their peers in formal schools.
In addition, Lalitpur district, situated on the border of Madhya Pradesh, has emerged as a case study for innovation in quality education at the primary level. The UNICEF supported “quality education package” comprising of multi-grade and multi-level classroom transaction, improvement of school environment, teacher capacity building and community school support is being implemented in all 874 formal primary schools in the district.
During 2004-06, UNICEF spent US$ 600,000 on teacher training and classroom supplies including creative workbooks, desks, and sports-kits to transform the local schools. The result is that today the Lalitpur model is being scaled up by the state government in all 70 districts of the state with a financial commitment of US$ 63 million to provide quality education to all children.
The road traveled so far has by no means been easy, particularly in a state like Uttar Pradesh that is beset with age old traditions and chained by social taboos that act as barriers and discourage education, especially of the girl child. It is often difficult to convince parents that education is an essential element of a child growth.UNICEF's initial US$ 60,000 investment in Lalitpur is being scaled up by the state government in all 70 districts of the state with a financial commitment of US$ 63 million to provide quality education to all children.
“Ours is an agricultural state so we require farmhands not clerks”, as Ram Prasad, a small farmer of Malhiabad, bluntly points out. And this is a typical response to education in the state.
Thus the task in UP is not just to ensure schools provide quality education and motivate children to go to school but to also change the mind-set of parents who often have to support large families and see nothing wrong in giving farm-tools in the hands of their children instead of chalk and slate.
But for 30 year old Khaliq, a carpenter living in Lucknow, the state capital, education does hold a promise. “All my five children, including three daughters, are at school. I believe that education will empower and enlighten them”, he says. Khaliq belongs to the steadily emerging new generation of parents who view education as being a significant and essential element for the all-round development of a child.
With increasing community awareness, one can positively hope that more parents like Khaliq will emerge in the state.