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‘Enrolment festivals’ in 18,000 villages bring children into school

© UNICEF Video
At Niloshi’s school ‘enrolment festival’, government representatives, parents and children took an oath that every child in the village will have the chance to go to school.

By Radhika Srivastava and Kun Li

NILOSHI VILLAGE, Gujarat State, India, 17 June 2005 - Under a scorching summer sun in this remote village, children and parents are celebrating today. Their excitement comes from a school enrolment drive that seeks to reach all of the village’s children aged 5-14.

The enrolment drive is part of the government’s efforts to get all children, both girls and boys, into school, and fulfil their right to an education. Enrolling girls is a special focus, because the female literacy rate in the region is low – in some places, only 6 or 7 per cent.

Navsu Bhoya, mother of five-year-old Manisha, said: “Without the ‘Shala Pravesh Utsav’ [enrolment drive], I would not have known that it was time for Manisha to join school. I always thought she was too small and could wait for a couple more years.”

Kanta Dhakal also has a five-year-old daughter, Sarika. “I am glad I decided to enrol her. I am feeling very proud that she will grow up as an educated person. I will let her study as much as she wants.”

© UNICEF Video
Children from Niloshi Village in India’s Gujarat State, at the ‘enrolment festival’.

An oath for education

In many countries, school enrolment is a routine, perhaps dull process. But in Niloshi this year, it was quite the opposite. To the sound of traditional music and drumming, about 30 children, all under 6 years old, were registered as first-graders and received their textbooks.

Government representatives, parents and children then took an oath stating that each and every child in the village will henceforth have the chance to go to school and complete their education.

In June, ‘enrolment festivals’ like the one in Niloshi have taken place in more than 18,000 villages across Gujarat State. The State government planned and carried out the drive, involving hundreds of officials, who visited many of the communities where female literacy rates are among the lowest. As a result an estimated 235,000 boys and girls are now enrolled for the upcoming school year.

Six siblings, none in school

One of the parents at the event in Niloshi was Sankali, who brought her five-year-old son Jamu. Jamu has six older siblings, none of whom go to school. “I heard from my neighbour about the ‘Shala Pravesh Utsav’,” Sankali said. “I have brought my son here to be enrolled.

“For many generations, nobody in my family ever went to school. Our children would help us with cattle grazing. But I think Jamu should get a chance to study.”

Sankali was not quite sure how education would help Jamu lead a better life, but she was willing to give him a chance to try it. “I have heard that education is necessary. And I hope that at least Jamu might benefit from it.”

With initiatives like the enrolment festivals, the government is seeking to raise the literacy rate to 100 per cent throughout the state of Gujarat.




13 July 2005:
UNICEF Correspondent Kun Li reports on the enrolment drive that seeks to reach all school-age children in Gujarat, India.

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