By Vidya Kulkarni
District Education Departments gear up in June by making a broad based plan involving all key stakeholders; elected representatives, Gram Sabha members, parents and also Meena Manch members.
The drive was much more significant this year in the context of Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education Act enacted in April 2010.
“The broad aim of the drive is to ensure all eligible children, fresher as well as drop outs and irregular attendees, get enrolled and integrated into mainstream education,” explained Mr. Ramchandra Rao Begur, Programme Officer, Education, UNICEF Maharashtra. While all the district offices undertake this activity, districts like Parbhani and Jalna have also made it more inclusive and effective with the support of Meena Manches, he opined.
As part of enrollment drive Jalna district chalked out a day-wise plan for 15 days – 14th June to 2nd July 2010 and circulated it to all schools in the district. In the initial phase recreational and play sessions – cultural events, making masks, clay work and painting were conducted to make school a welcoming and attractive place for the children. attract Teachers took extra efforts to enroll drop out or irregular children by taking help of local community members and students from Meena Manch to get these children back to school.
Dnyaneshwari, a Class VI student and active Meena Manch member from Kanepuri village in Jalna, proudly shared how she made her class mate Manisha to get back to school. Manisha had gone for her sister’s wedding and missed school for almost a month, thereafter her attendance became dwindling. So by visiting Manisha frequently and by talking to her parents Meena Manch members persuaded her back to school and she was enrolled in Class VI.
Similar examples are also seen in the adjacent district Parbhani. For instance, in Sayala parents of a six year old child having hearing disability were reluctant to enroll him in school. They thought he will not be able to mix up well with others and will not be able to learn properly. But Meena Manch members visited the family often and with the help of the teachers got the child enrolled. Now he can benefit from special teachers appointed under the initiative IED – Inclusive Education for Disabled and would get guidance from skilled teachers. “We often discuss the importance of education and value of girl child with these girls using Meena’s stories. They are quite motivated and keep a watch on irregular students and those who need to be enrolled,” told the teacher facilitating Meena Manch.
Shrikant, also from Sayala, is presently enrolled in class VI. He missed the school last year, since he just lost interest in his studies. He used to go with his parents to their farm and helped them in their work. After being persuaded by everyone and as the enrollment drive in the village picked up, he decided to get back.
Parbhani district has even gone one step ahead by planning to extend enrollment drive to places other than villages, such as block places and cities. Explaining the reasons behind this initiative Assistant Project Officer Mr. Bhosale said, “Identification and enrollment is comparatively easier at the village level; geographical area is limited and community bonding is still intact, so people extend help once they get convinced. However identifying the children in block level places and urban areas is quite difficult and challenging.”
The intensive enrollment drive has succeeded in enrolling drop outs and irregular children. “Enrollment drive is but a beginning,” says Mr. Sunil Mavkar, Assistant Programme Officer for SSA in Jalna. Now they are focusing on retention and on quality enjoyable education to sustain their interest levels.