India is the home of NGO’s which spawn due to the supply side response. We have people who feel strongly about something and are moved to do something for the community or the nation. This NGO proliferation was due to govt failure but this may be a perception considering the planning commission reports that propose to spend on public good. In fact why can’t governments work as efficiently as NGO’s: maybe because it’s a monopoly and somewhat indestructible. Attempts are being made in various places to achieve the inclusion of all children into the ambit of educational fold.
The myth of private school children faring better than public school children was challenged by Wilima Wadhwa in her study of such differences. It is summarized in Pratham’s latest report on the state of education- ASER2008. According to her, household characteristics- income, literacy (especially of the mother), a pucca house, electricity, telephone- explains most of the variation. Among all differentiating variables the presence of a secondary school in the village goes a long way in determining the performance of children in the primary schools. It may be because of the chances to get promoted to a secondary level of education in the village itself, which pushes the children and their parents to continue their faith in the education system. Among all else, ambition also matters when we look at the issue of inclusion of all the children into the education system’s fold. This ambition and the individual vision for each child have to be nurtured by this very education system and from a real young age.
We have people who feel strongly about something and are moved to do something for the community or the nation. This NGO proliferation was due to govt failure but this may be a perception considering the planning commission reports that propose to spend on public good. In fact why can’t governments work as efficiently as NGO’s: maybe because it’s a monopoly and somewhat indestructible.
One such initiative worth recounting is of Loreto School- Sealdah, where nearly 3500 children from 12 schools, are taught by the students in a unique programme christened Shikshajyoti, run on the ‘each-one-teach-one’ principle. The rewards are immeasurable for both the teacher and the taught, through its imaginative and interactive teaching methods involving storytelling and role-playing. Everybody feels equal in the school precincts and the school projects are not about charity or the proverbial rich giving to the poor. The whole project is not only to help educate the marginalized children through effective use of school’s resources, but also to inculcate a sense of values in the students of the school. The students of this school imbibe a set of values that no other school can impart.
Till 1979, when Sister Cyril Mooney took over as principal, Loreto was like any other convent school, with its students drawn from affluent middle class homes. But for Sister Cyril, who received a Padmashri Award last year, it wasn’t enough to be just a ‘good’ school. Today nearly half of the 1,400 odd students of the Loreto School pay no fees at all- because they just can’t afford it. The natural warmth and camaraderie among the students make it impossible to tell which of Loreto students come from poor families. The school has triumphantly redefined education as it not only imparts bookish knowledge to children but is actively involved in construction of old age homes, micro credit facilities for the mothers of Rainbow school pupils, runs free medical camps and a kitchen feeding 700 children daily. Today Loreto Sealdah’s students and their parents, its teachers and alumni, are all proud stake-holders in Sister Cyril’s vision- whose able leadership and willingness to work brought about a sea change in the surroundings.
The other success story is worth narrating is one of Naandi kitchens in Andhra Pradesh which provide round, square and oval meals as part of the mid-day meal scheme to pull in school children. Government schemes evoke so much cynicism that when you come across one that functions with clockwork precision, you feel a sense of disbelief. But the public-private partnership between the NGO, Naandi foundation and the Andhra Pradesh government is an invitation to suspend scepticism. The scheme is undoubtedly one of the best implemented mid-day meal programmes in the country. Each day some 150,000 children, in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, eat atleast one healthy, tasty and hygienically prepared meal every school day.
It is amazing to see what one wholesome meal a day can do to a child’s life. Enrolment in state run schools in the twin cities has gone up by 25 to 30 percent since the mid-day meal scheme began. Surprisingly, a large number of the newly enrolled are girls. There is 10 to 20 percent improvement in children’s health and malnutrition levels, too, have fallen similarly. Hearteningly, attendance rates in the schools, where absenteeism has been rampant, have gone up by 10 to 20 percent.
The one’s who feel the urge to fulfil their dream of lighting the lamp of knowledge in each child, go ahead without looking for any governmental support or await the passage of right compulsory education bill in the parliament. They believe in doing something about the condition of the underprivileged on their own rather than cursing the Government policies.