Students flood Rajasthan schools
By Rama Srinivasan
Hanuman Singh is much older than his classmates. He comes to school regularly but still scribbles Hindi alphabets backwards on the walls of the Guru-mitra classroom (a unique room with blackboards on all four walls and numbers and alphabets painted above them to make it easier for beginners) in the Dharampura upper primary school of Dausa district . “Hanuman is a differentially-abled child who works hard. We told his parents about a special residential school some distance away, but they don’t want to part with him. So we have tried to make the school environment as congenial for him as possible,” says Kailash Mahawar, Head Master.
This school in the Dausa district of Rajasthan has expanded the scope of enrolment drive, conducted in accordance to the provisions of the Mukhya Mantri Shiksha Sambal Mahaabhiyan 2007(Chief Minister’s Education Campaign) by ensuring that even children like Hanuman and Pappu Mulchand, (who has to crawl her way to school) manage to attend school.
The Rajasthan Council for Elementary Education and schools across the state have been working overtime for the one-month (July15 to August 15) drive, conducting door-to-door surveys and social audits to identify children who are out of school (drop outs and never enrolled) and bringing them to book.
Even on July 19 a couple of new students joined the Rampura upper primary school, proudly showing off their new bags and identity card (prerna card). Earlier, the school was a scene of great activity with half of the students planting trees and the other half getting their yearly health checkups done. The Campaign, apart from stressing on maximum enrolment, provides for regular health checkups, environment education, stringent monitoring of mid day meals, special incentives like transport vouchers and cycles for girls and quality assurance through grading systems. State government has nominated one senior IAS officer from the State to monitor the campaign activities in each district of the state.
Though the state has been implementing the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for years, there is considerable optimism attached to this two-year-old campaign. “The symbolic relevance of attaching the Chief Minister’s name to the education programme is that the whole administration is involved in this project. Whether it is the Village Assembly, Public Health and Engineering department or health department, they are responsible for the school,” says Additional District Project Coordinator, Ghanshyam Singh Rajput. This means the bureaucratic hurdles in inter-departmental work like getting water supply in the school has been removed. “The campaign has hence achieved a high level of interdependency among the various departments,” Rajput adds.
Dharampura’s school has managed to get 34 of the 54 out-of-school children in the village admitted. The school has been marked high on infrastructure by the grading system. Regular visits from the district administration has ensured that all its requests have been entertained. “The school has improved a lot since our times. It even acquired computers for students recently,” says a happy Ravi Singh, father of a student. However, the teachers have yet to learn how to use the computer.
There has also been mushrooming of a large number of private schools, both in Dausa and Tonk district . In schools like Dharmpura, there are now more girls than boys, more Scheduled Caste /Scheduled Tribes students than forward communities. And this is where the quality improvement assumes more importance – since government schools cater to these disadvantaged groups. UNICEF, which is supporting the Campaign, is specifically focussing on these two aspects – quality of education and special attention to girls and backward communities. UNICEF is developing campaign material – posters, radio jingles and TV spots – that promote education of the girl child as part of the Campaign.
“UNICEF has partnered with the education department for this Campaign. They have helped increase awareness about the various aspects of the campaign,” says Devki Dandan Pandey, Additional Director of Rajasthan Council of Elementary Education,
While stressing that quality is very much on the agenda, he believes that success of the enrolment drive should not be underestimated. “Earlier girls from the backward communities never went to school. Even five years ago, the girls to boys ratio in Rajasthan schools was 30-70 percent, it is now 45-55 percent. Having specific plans for specific groups has helped us. Even children belonging to backward tribes of districts like Sirohi and Barmer are now in the mainstream,” says Ramesh Chandra Sharma, Assistant Director of Rajasthan Council of Elementary Education.