Education for the less privileged
India is a country with a huge population. 1.3 billion of us populate this vast and ancient land. The tragedy is that our intellection might is in the hands of very few. Or shall we say, a large percentage of this 1.3 billion continues to be uneducated, illiterate even. Marginalized communities, less privileged sections of society, millions of reeling under poverty cannot afford basic education for their children. Even if they can, it is simply not a priority when families are grappling with even baser worries such as two square meals a day and a roof under which to sleep. Education, in that case, becomes a luxury, not a necessity.
As we prepare to enter yet another year of Independent India, it is vital that we focus on educating the less fortunate. On ensuring that the full potential of this bourgeoning young population grows up to be active contributors to the development of the nation. What then, are the steps that can be taken to ensure a steady rise in education to those who cannot, or do not have access to it currently?
The government at the center, any and all dispensations, have been doing their bit to promote and provide access to basic education to those in need. There is a robust and growing network of free government schools in that reaches the remotest parts of the country. Having said that, its presence alone is sometimes not enough to ensure learning. These schools are plagued with multiple problems ranging from poor to no infrastructure, below par hygiene and safety standards, absenteeism on the part of the teachers who tend to treat their work like any other government job, i.e., not invested enough to turn up, and even if they do, the quality of their teaching is sorely lacking, uninspired, and unenthusiastic. These are facets of the government school system that need to be addressed urgently, be it by way of incentivizing teaching, increasing pay-scales, or by infusing fresh capital and making sure that assigned money is used for the actual on-ground upgradation of these learning centers.
In India, we tend to suffer from a certain apathy. Civil society often places the entire responsibility of nation and infrastructure building with the government, not realizing perhaps, that there has to be a healthy mix of state and private initiative to really get things moving. To simply declare that education for the less privileged is the sole domain of the government isn’t enough. Private individuals must take onus and become stakeholders in the process. For instance, joint programs between state and private individuals/organizations/entities will help eradicate, at least alleviate a lot of the problems I referred to in the first point.
It doesn’t always have to be a private company investing millions in CSR and starting free schools. Even private individuals can volunteer their time to teach at government schools. As an educator myself, I may visit top-tier educational institutions and get paid handsomely to conduct workshops and teach; at the same time, I try and balance my time by also regularly visiting areas/NGOs/schools where I am happy to teach pro-bono, and try and do my bit in educating those who aren’t as fortunate, and exposing these kids to the same ideas and standards of teaching that I practice in any institution that I visit.
Breaking stereotypical thinking
The final cog in this education wheel I feel is to shift peoples’ mindset. Many less privileged people seem to believe that sending their children is simply a waste of time. A luxury they cannot afford because they’d be much better served with children being at home and helping out, be it with household chores, or with earning supplemental income through menial jobs or even lending a helping hand in farm-work. It is these families, the parents and adults of these families, that need to be educated about the far-reaching benefits of getting their children a good education. Their shortsighted view of their children’s time being better spent at home needs to be changed by enlightening them with the virtues and prospects of a full and robust education. They need to see sense in it, only then will they be able to benefit from the existing and improving infrastructure that government and private entities are investing in tirelessly. If there isn’t anyone to go to school, what’s the point of there being any in the first place, right?
Opening the doors of learning for the less privileged is the duty and responsibility of a developing nation. If only all stakeholders in the process can come to the same table and share in this mammoth task, we would have ensured that every child in this country, irrespective of social class, receives an education.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.