"Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.” - Kofi Annan, Former U.N. Secretary General.
Education has been on the centre stage of our national politics for some years now and there have been claims and counter claims about the Govt. performance vis-a-vis its planning and consequent promises. India is more than six decade old sovereign Democratic Republic with a quotable/better economic growth story compared to many nations of the world. Nevertheless, when we take a re-look on this vital input of human development, we encounter with the following facts:
- Our literacy percentage is only 74%. Kerala being highest with 94% and Bihar being lowest with 63%
- School dropout percentage is still more than 40%
- The drop out percentage is even worse than that of Bangladesh and Vietnam - countries that got independence more than two decades later.
- We spend less than 2% of our national budget on education for the children who constitute 25% of our total population.
- The dropout percentage is higher among tribals, economically weaker sections of society etc.
There is no denying the fact that education is very necessary for cultural, social and economic development of diverse sections of society like ours. But, despite the constitutional provisions regarding Right to Education and Govt. declaration for providing basic education to all its citizens, our performance is still dismally poor. The high percentage of school dropouts is more disturbing.
The following are some of the reasons of school dropouts besides serious flaws in Govt. implementation mechanism:
- Poverty-related issues such as sporadic and low income, malnutrition, ill health etc.
- Inadequate infrastructural facilities in schools.
- Poor management of Mid-Day Meal Scheme.
- Poor quality of teaching staff and their erratic presence in schools.
- No toilet and urinal facilities in many schools, particularly in rural areas - one of the major causes of dropouts among girls.
- Prevalence of child labour as means to supplement parents' income.
- Poor communication between the school authorities with the children and their parents regarding dropout reasons.
- Little effort to track and persuade the dropout children for re-enrollment.
- Irregular supply of free text books.
- Rural parents pull out girls for taking care of domestic works and to look after their siblings for social and economic reasons.
- Parents from disadvantaged communities especially living in urban slums and rural areas pull out girls to get married at an early age due to social and security factors.
All said and done, if our country is to qualify to be known as a developed country in true sense of the term, the dropout cases are to be looked into very seriously and concerted and time bound action must be taken to bring it down to bare minimum level. And, if we all, including the Govt. resolve to do it, it can happen before long.
Milan K. Sinha is a freelance writer. He has worked in Banking and Insurance sector for three decades following three years of active writing in various newspapers and magazines. Presently he is engaged in stress management, wellness and awareness activities besides freelance writing.